Can syndication boost hospital-MD deals?

According to Modern Physician, the following deal could change the way doctors invest in healthcare facilities. The deal, which brought a group of 80 physician investors together with Farmers Branch, TX-based Metrocrest Hospital, is designed to sidestep Stark self-referral limitations.

The partners are sharing a 25-year lease for 149-bed Trinity Medical Center of Carrollton, TX, and a one-year management contract for 118-bed RHD Memorial Medical Center. To make sure Stark rules aren't violated, no one physician or physician family member can own more than 5 percent of the limited liability corporation that serves as the vehicle for the agreement, and the physicians as a group can only own 40 percent.

I'm merely your friendly editor--not a lawyer--so I have no opinion as to whether this is a kosher arrangement under Stark. As a trend watcher, though, I have to agree with Modern Physician that this is an interesting approach.

But will physicians want to sink their hard-earned cash in such arrangements? If I were a doctor with varied options, I might opt for specialty-hospital or medical real estate investments instead. It seems to me that such options would have a great deal more upside in today's market. Also, if I were a member of a large group of prosperous physicians, I imagine I'd want more control than such a deal offers.

What do you think? Has the Texas syndicate broken new ground, or is it just one more variation on a theme?  Would you consider using such a model in your business? Write to me and let me know. - Anne