Hospital groups push back on CMS medical staff rule

A coalition of hospital groups is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to back off from a proposal that would prevent multihospital systems from integrating their medical staff.

"This provision would remove the ability of hospital systems and their medical staffs to make their own determinations about the optimal medical staff framework and would prohibit medical staffs in some multi-hospital systems from having an integrated, unified organization across two or more hospitals," the hospitals said in an April 8 letter. "CMS has not offered a compelling reason as to why such a policy is necessary."

The medical staff proposal is part of a series of provisions CMS proposed in February, saying they could save providers $3.4 billion over five years by reducing red tape. The hospital systems aren't objecting to the entire proposed rule, only the provision banning staff integration.

The hospitals contend the medical staff proposal ignores potential benefits to patient safety, "disregards the sizeable burden that would be placed on some medical staffs that currently utilize a single, integrated structure, and perpetuates inconsistencies in how CMS regulates hospitals."

The decision on whether to have separate medical staff at each facility or to integrate those teams is best made by individual hospital systems, the hospital associations argue.

The letter is signed by the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Children's Hospital Association and the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

The AHA previously waded into the issue in February, when AHA President Rich Umbdenstock issued a statement applauding the CMS recommendation to rescind a rule that hospital governing boards must include medical staff representation. But he also said "antiquated organizational structures" undermine hospitals' attempts to provide better patient-centered care.

To learn more:
- download the letter (.pdf)
- here's the proposed rule
- read the previous AHA News Now brief