New St. Agnes policy faces review by state Hospital offers free 2nd day after birth

February 14, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Mothers and their newborns already are taking St. Agnes Hospital up on its offer of a second day free. But a state regulatory commission says not so fast.

The hospital Monday became the first in the state to offer a second day at no charge after a routine birth, regardless of a patient's insurance coverage.

But the Health Services Cost Review Commission said yesterday that it has challenged the policy and advised all hospitals in the state against establishing similar plans.

Hospitals are prohibited by regulatory statute from altering charges without the commission's advance approval, said Robert Murray, executive director of the seven-member, governor-appointed commission.

The commission, which regulates and sets rates for the state's acute care hospitals, was notified of the policy Monday when the hospital announced it publicly, he said.

"They're giving away a service, and a cost is incurred when this happens," Mr. Murray said. "One could presume that as a result, other patients are paying more."

Hospital officials, who maintain the free day does not require the commission's approval, said yesterday that the new policy remained in effect.

"They have not told us to stop," said Robert E. Pezzoli, president and CEO of St. Agnes.

Mr. Pezzoli said the hospital spent three months devising the policy and ensuring it complied with existing regulations.

Hospital officials have agreed to answer questions at a meeting with the commission today, Mr. Pezzoli said.

The General Assembly, in response to concerns that shortened hospital stays could lead to complications for mothers and newborns, last year passed a law requiring insurers to pay either for a 48-hour hospital stay or for a visit from a home-care nurse. Obstetric and pediatric professional groups recommend two-day stays.

Most insurers have chosen to provide home-care, prompting legislators this year to consider requiring coverage for two-day stays.

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