The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and U.S. Hospital Operations

Inquiry - Winter 2004/2005
Vol. 41, No. 4
Winter 2004/2005
Bazzoli, G.J., Lindrooth, R.C., Hasnain-Wynia, R., and J. Needleman
pp. 401-17

The Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997 initiated several changes to Medicare payment policy in an effort to slow growth of hospital Medicare payments and ensure the future of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.  Although subsequent federal legislation relaxed some original proposals, restored funds were limited and directed to specific types of hospitals.  In addition, these Medicare policy changes came at a time when hospitals faced private sector payment constraints.  This paper assesses the short-term effects to those observed in the early 1980s during implementation of the Medicare prospective payment system (PPS).  We found that some operational changes instituted by hospitals facing financial pressures from BBA were similar to those observed for hospitals that faced pressure from Medicare PPS, including efforts to contain medicare cost growth, to expand outpatient service provision, and to contain hospital staffing.  However, during PPS implementation hospitals experienced declining inpatient use and growing profit margins, whereas post-BBA hospitals experienced growing inpatient use and declining margins. 

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