A Statement from Sutter Health
Several social media sites and news outlets featured a story about a patient at Sutter General Hospital who posted his hospital bill online. While we’re committed to respecting our patient’s privacy, we want to make sure the public has accurate information.
Health agrees that an improved billing structure is needed in our nation’s hospitals—where
published charges are more closely aligned with actual costs. And a more straightforward
pricing system is only possible when reimbursement from government-sponsored patients
covers actual costs.
Hospitals shoulder the extraordinary responsibility of maintaining 24/7 readiness to meet community health care and emergency needs. Patients who arrive due to an emergency or an elective procedure expect and deserve state-of-the-art equipment and treatment, and to know that everything possible will be done to safeguard their life or the life of a loved one—regardless of their ability to pay.
Hospitals also operate in a unique environment where we receive less than the actual cost of providing services from the majority of our patients (Medicare and MediCal-sponsored patients), while daily serving scores of other patients who have no ability to pay anything.
Factors that Contribute to the Cost of Care
We strive to be affordable and to deliver the breadth and level of quality care that our patients and communities expect. Many factors influence the cost and prices of services provided by our hospitals. Those factors include:
- How much free health care we provide to patients without insurance and to those unable to pay. In 2012, Sutter Health provided more than $2.9 million in charity care every week on average—or about $153 million total.
- How much care we provide to Medi-Cal patients. Together, Sutter Health hospitals serve more Medi-Cal patients in our Northern California service area than any other health care provider. In 2012, providing care to Medi-Cal patients cost $450 million more than the state paid.
- Investments of about $10 billion between the years 2000 to 2013 to build and retrofit health care facilities, and to purchase advanced patient care technologies. (Sutter Health has built or rebuilt more than one dozen hospital facilities in Northern CA.)
- The salaries we pay to employees. Sutter Health also has a fully-funded pension plan—a rarity in today’s environment.
Working to Deliver Affordable, High-Quality Health Care
Several years ago, Sutter Health embarked on a plan to ensure that the high-quality care we deliver would also be more affordable to patients and employers.
In 2009, we set a goal to reduce our systemwide cost structure by about 10 percent—or around $850 million. We’re about halfway there after redesigning processes in patient care that hold the line on cost while improving quality and also examining how we can perform business support services more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Helping Patients Understand their Options
Given that every individual is different and every patient’s course of treatment is unique, we strongly believe a patient is best served by talking with a professional who can discuss their particular health care needs, the treatments recommended by their doctor, and the costs of those treatments. We have staff and tools available to have these discussions with patients and potential patients.