The N.Y. Times reports (“Concerned about costs…“) that Congress is trying to impose new restrictions on physician-owned, for-profit hospitals. The legislators fear that these hospitals 1) drive up costs and 2) provide poor quality.
Legislators worry that when physicians own the hospital, they may have more of an incentive to order more procedures to increase their profits. If this is true, I am not sure that physician owned hospitals are the problem, it may be the case that Medicare or insurance companies need to change how they compensate physicians in these hospitals.
The second case is also of dubious merit. It was shown in a previous post that ambulatory surgery centers and hospital outpatient departments have similar quality levels. It is true that ambulatory surgery centers generally have a healthier patient base, but treating healthier patients in a lower cost setting is not necessarily a bad thing. It is true that many of these physician-owned hospitals not equipped to handle complications requiring emergency care, but if the complications are lower, then the cost savings may be worth not having the emergency care equipment.
Of course, not all physician-owned hospitals will be subject to these new restrictions. Lobbyists have convinced politicians that facilities such as Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center in Wenatchee, Washington should be exempt from these restrictions.
Michael C. Burgess a Texas Republican and an obstetrician-gynecologist states that “This is a free country…If you want to invest in a hospital, if you are willing to put personal capital at risk, you should not be forbidden to do so just because you are a doctor.”