Physician-owned hospital rules relax with House bill

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In a small win for physician owners, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed a GOP bill that amends health reform provisions that currently restrict physician-owned hospital construction and expansion.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , the law restricts development and expansion of the controversial physician-owned hospitals. If it passes in the Senate, the H.R. 3630 bill, known as the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act, would allow 25 to 30 hospitals that have yet to open finish construction.

However, the Congressional Budget Office said allowing the spread and expansion of these types of facilities would increase federal spending by $300 million over 10 years, according to The New York Times.

The Physician Hospitals of America (PHA) group pointed out that the expansion would create jobs to benefit the economy.

"It is coincidence, but this provision does belong in the 'Job Creation Act,'" PHA President Dr. Michael Russell said in a press release today. "We have identified 7,000 highly skilled healthcare jobs that would quickly be created were physician-owned hospital projects allowed to move forward. This figure does not take into account thousands more construction and community jobs that would be supported by POH construction and expansion."

Physician-owned hospitals have been controversial for potential conflicts of interest. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health called physician-owned hospitals, which often specialize in surgery, orthopedics, or heart care, "a special interest giveaway," according to the NYT.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) noticeably opposed the bill and the lifting of restrictions. AHA President Richard Umbdenstock cited studies in which hospitals owned by physicians use more services. Umbdenstock also said physician-owned hospitals run the risk of only providing profitable services, "leaving community hospitals with the more acutely ill patients and those who are uninsured or have coverage through public programs."

To learn more:
- read the PHA press release
- read the NYT article
- read the Outpatient Surgery Magazine article
- see the vote overview

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