Ohio lawmakers plan to replace a proposed ban on physician investment in specialty hospitals with a bill calling for a two-year moratorium on new specialty hospitals while the state studies the effect such facilities have on acute care hospitals.
The new bill, unveiled Tuesday, would benefit New Albany Surgical Hospital, a new specialty hospital that is expected to open in December in the Columbus area.
New Albany's physician-investors are under threat of losing privileges at two nearby acute care hospital systems, Ohio Health and Mount Carmel Health System, after the facility opens. Hospital representatives say they need to take action against the doctors because the new facility would cherry-pick the hospital's most lucrative surgery cases.
The new proposal, crafted by the health committee of the Ohio House, would allow New Albany to be grandfathered in before the moratorium takes effect, according to Jill Jansen, an aide to state Rep. Greg Jolivette, the health committee chairman.
Jansen says the bill would also bar hospitals from dismissing physicians for economic reasons, thus stopping Ohio Health and Mount Carmel from carrying out their threats to expel the New Albany physicians.
Jolivette chaired a Tuesday meeting on the changes with representatives of the state medical and hospital associations, Ohio Health, Mount Carmel and New Albany, Jansen says.
The previous bill that would ban physician investments, sponsored by state Rep. Jon Peterson, was introduced last year but did not make it out of the health committee, she says. The current effort has the support of Jolivette and House Speaker Larry Householder, who attended Tuesday's meeting via speaker phone, she adds.
Jansen says the doctors' side opposes the proposed moratorium, and the hospitals' side opposes the proposed ban on expelling doctors, known as economic credentialing, but "we can't make everyone happy."
The stakeholders will submit their comments on the compromise next Wednesday morning, and a revised version would come to a vote before the health committee that afternoon, she says. If passed, it would go to the House floor after the session starts on Sept. 17, then over to a Senate committee, she says.
Tim Maglione, director of legislation at the Ohio State Medical Association, says his group opposes the moratorium because there is no proof that specialty hospitals have economically harmed acute care hospitals.
"We still don't think there is sufficient evidence that this bill is even necessary," he says.
Only one specialty hospital is in operation in Ohio: Dayton Heart Hospital, a joint venture between physicians and Charlotte, N.C.-based MedCath.
In addition to New Albany, two more specialty hospitals are said to be in planning stages in the Cincinnati area. Five practices with a total of 30 physicians have invested in New Albany Hospital, which has 42 beds and eight operating rooms, planners say.
In July 2002, the boards of both Ohio Health and Mount Carmel, which own three hospitals each in the Columbus area, approved rules to deny staff privileges to physicians with investments in for-profit specialty hospitals.