Hospitals used to care for us until we got better even if it took a couple of weeks. Then we went home. But almost 20 years ago, Congress passed a little-known law that changed all this by changing how hospitals get paid. Until the mid-'80s, hospitals were paid for every day we were there. But then the law changed, and hospitals began getting a flat fee based on our diagnosis. A heart attack had one price tag, a broken foot another. If we recovered quickly, the hospital kept the leftover dollars as profit. If we lingered, the hospital took a loss.
Like magic, hospital lengths of stay plummeted. Patients were discharged "sicker and quicker," often to nursing homes, which became centers of rehabilitation a much less expensive setting than hospitals. Home-care agencies flourished.
Liz Taylor, "Prepare for home care after '>b>sicker, quicker' hospital stay," The Seattle Times, July 24, 2002
Others worry that the government's new payment system for Medicare under which hospitals are reimbursed a set amount for each case, according to the diagnosis, regardless of how long the patient is hospitalized encourages hospitals to discharge patients "sicker and quicker."
Dan Colburn, "Unionizing Doctors," The Washington Post, June 19, 1985