The Top 10 Business Stories of 2009

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 12:00 am  

The red ink in the financial sector extended to Arkansas health care providers, with 52 out of 94 hospitals reporting losses. At 55 percent, that count represented an unhealthy increase from 40 percent in 2008.

Operations at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences generated a net loss of $28.5 million, $43.1 million if investment losses were included. That performance topped 10 other hospitals with net losses of $5 million or greater.

No. 2
Health Care Debate

President Barack Obama said his No. 1 domestic priority was to overhaul the health care system.

Throughout the year, Congress has been hotly debating the best way to cover the nearly 50 million uninsured people across the country.

Sticking points have included the cost and proposals for a government-run insurance program, which the insurance industry has opposed.

The House approved its version of a health care reform bill in November, and it looks as if the legislation will squeak by in the Senate. The differences between the two bills then will have to be reconciled.

Virtually all Republicans in Congress opposed the Democratic approach to health care reform efforts, charging they were too expensive and would only increase taxes and health care costs. Sen. Blanch Lincoln, D-Ark., was one of the few Democratic senators who sided with Republicans when she said that she couldn't support a government-run insurance program, also known as the "public option."

Lincoln, who is up for re-election in 2010, then said she would vote for the Senate version of the bill after the public option was removed. (The public option, however, remains in the House bill.)

Lincoln said in a Dec. 21 statement that reform would expand health care access to more than 400,000 uninsured Arkansans. Her support for the legislation might make her vulnerable in the upcoming election. Several Republicans have said they will challenge Lincoln, who was recently named chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

In Arkansas, health care officials are waiting to see what the final legislation will look like and what its impact will be. Some hospitals could close if Congress doesn't approve a health care reform package, said Paul Cunningham, the senior vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association.

Hospitals in Arkansas have seen the number of uninsured patients and people who can't pay for health care continue to rise in 2009. As a result, hospitals hemorrhaged red ink throughout the year.



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