Tennessean Examines Debate Over Specialty Hospitals
The Tennessean on Monday examined the recent debate over physician-owned specialty hospitals, which many opponents maintain create a system of "self-referral" that provides physicians with an "unfair advantage because they refer patients to their own hospitals and take the best-insured patients." Federal law allows physicians to hold an ownership stake in hospitals that they use. Congress in 2003 temporarily banned the construction of new specialty hospitals, but the moratorium will expire on June 8. Hospital chain HCA and the American Hospital Association have led efforts against the expansion of specialty hospitals nationwide.
"When a physician selectively refers or 'cherry-picks' patients to send to a facility in which he has an economic stake, that's not competition," AHA President Dick Davidson said, adding, "That's conflict of interest." However, supporters of specialty hospitals "dismiss such arguments as self-serving," the Tennessean reports.
Jim Grant -- president of the American Surgical Hospital Association, which represents 76 specialty hospitals and has support from the American Medical Association -- said, "They bring competition to the community and bring a new way of thinking of health care." The future of specialty hospitals remains "unclear," according to the Tennessean (Pack, Tennessean, 3/21).