Senators Criticize Regulation of Specialty Hospitals
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) at a hearing on Wednesday asked CMS to increase oversight of specialty hospitals, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/17).
Grassley said, "It is time for CMS to make a serious commitment to oversight of specialty hospitals," adding that "the committee's oversight work found that, in spite of a congressional moratorium on new specialty hospitals and an administrative extension of that ban, it appears more than 40 specialty hospitals have opened" since 2004.
The 2003 Medicare law included an 18-month moratorium on new specialty hospitals that expired last June, but CMS officials determined that the agency had the authority to extend the moratorium until Feb. 15. In addition, the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill enacted in February included a six-month moratorium and required CMS to develop a plan on regulation of the facilities (Young, The Hill, 5/18).
McClellan said that CMS does not have the authority to extend the current moratorium, which will expire on Aug. 8 (CQ HealthBeat, 5/17). However, McClellan said that CMS plans to implement regulations to revise Medicare reimbursements to specialty hospitals, ensure that facilities classified as hospitals have the ability to provide emergency services and help prevent potential conflicts of interest among physicians who hold ownership stakes in specialty hospitals (The Hill, 5/18).
In addition, CMS plans to implement regulations to prevent "cherry picking" of healthier, more profitable patients by specialty hospitals.
Grassley said that such regulations "are only part of the solution," adding that the committee "anxiously awaits" the plan from CMS on regulation of specialty hospitals (CQ HealthBeat, 5/17).