A new General Accounting Office report only partially explores whether Congress should restrict specialty hospitals, and GAO officials say a second report, expected this summer, probably won't be able to draw any conclusions, either.
Congress wants to know if specialty hospitals are a threat to general hospitals' survival and if investing physicians are making a lot of money off their referrals.
The GAO report, released May 15, counts fewer than 100 specialty hospitals, making up 1% of Medicare payments to hospitals, but points to a recent growth spurt.
It also finds that specialty hospitals treat lower-acuity cases, which tend to pay better than cases at general hospitals.
The GAO found, without learning the names of physician owners, that almost half the investing physicians have stakes of 3% or less in their specialty hospitals, but almost one-fifth own a stake of 15% or more.