This study uses hospital data from the 1979 American Hospital Association Reimbursement Survey in a multivariate framework to assess the impact of discounts and third-party reimbursement on hospital costs and profitability. Three central issues are addressed: (1) Is a differential payment justified for Medicare, Medicaid, and/or Blue Cross on the basis of differential costs? (2) Have the cost-containment efforts of the dominant payers reduced total payments to hospitals? and (3) What part of the overall savings in payments to hospitals is in the form of reduced costs rather than reduced profits? On the basis of the evidence in this study, we find (1) that the differential payment is not justified; (2) that the cost-containment efforts of the dominant payers have reduced total payments to hospitals somewhat, but a substantial amount of cost-shifting remains; and (3) that the savings is in profits, rather than in costs.

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