Senator seeks physician-owner exemption on new hospital

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is seeking an exemption on physician hospital ownership for a new hospital planned to open in Murrieta, Calif., according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Feinstein said an exemption should be granted for the Physicians Group of Murrieta, a group of about 70 doctors that owns a 45 percent stake in 106-bed Loma Linda University Medical Center. Feinstein said she would meet with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. He is chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which drafted much of the healthcare reform legislation signed into law earlier this year.

The $256 million hospital is expected to open in March. The Affordable Care Act prohibits physician-owned hospitals from opening after Dec. 31 of this year.

Feinstein and other officials claim a waiver should be granted because the hospital's planning and construction was in the works well before healthcare reform legislation became law.

If a waiver cannot be obtained, Loma Linda would have to buy out the Physicians Group's share, a financial drain that could lead to service cuts elsewhere. Loma Linda owns a 45 percent stake, with the remaining 10 percent held by a third party.

"Everybody knows we need [this hospital]," said Murrieta City Councilman Randon Lane. "We're all invested in this."

Riverside County has 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 persons, far below the statewide and nationwide average.

For more:
- read the Riverside Press-Enterprise article
- read the North County Times article