Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris today charged the hospital industry with false advertising in its intensified effort to defeat President Carter's hospital cost control bill.
She said the hospitals' nationwide "voluntary effort" to control costs is faltering badly.
The administration bill, a Carter priority, would control the rate of increase in hospitals' spending if hospitals fail to control it themselves.
Some chains of investor-owned hospitals have been placing large ads in newspapers to attack the bill. Lobbyists for hospital and medical associations, the plan's main foes, have been busy on Capitol Hill.
Charging that these "special-interest groups" are "spending millions" to mislead the public and Congress, Harris said, "I do not challenge the right of any group . . . to get its message across" but "I have been dismayed by the many "factual errors."
For example, she said:
Opponents say the bill would unfairly restrict hospital costs while ignoring inflation. In fact, Harris said, the federally set limit on hospital budget increases would be adjusted for general inflation.
Opponents say the bill would limit hospitals' ability to add new life-saving technology, when in fact it would make an adjustment for new devices and any increases in patients.
The hospitals' effort -- a project of the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals (the investor-owned facilities) and the American Medical Association -- helped to reduce the rate of increase in hospital spending from 15.6 percent in 1977 to 12.8 percent in 1978.
This year the hospitals had hoped to reduce the rate to no more than 11.6 percent by next January. Instead, the rate for the year's first seven months has been 13.3 percent.
"The trend is clearly upward" and does not result simply from inflation (also at 13 percent), Harris said. During 1979's first seven months, she said, the costs of goods and services hospitals buy rose 9.3 percent above 1978, meaning some of the new hospital inflation is caused by "continued inefficiency."