Conferees for the Medicare bill are expected to reach a deal today on specialty hospitals that would involve a moratorium on building new hospitals while possibly allowing for some exceptions, a lobbyist for specialty hospitals reports.
Randy Fenninger, representing the American Surgical Hospital Association in Washington, says House conferees last night proposed the moratorium to their Senate counterparts, who have wanted stiffer rules for specialty hospitals but appear to be ready to sign on.
Fenninger says the moratorium would likely allow exceptions, such as allowing doctors to build hospitals that operate emergency rooms or are in states that have specific laws regulating specialty hospitals, such as Nevada and Oklahoma.
He says conferees have also discussed an exception for specialty hospitals that are accredited by the Joint Committee on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. He notes that many smaller specialty hospitals lack JCAHO accreditation, which can take months to complete, but they usually have Medicare certification.
"We don't like a moratorium to begin with, but if it has to happen, we would prefer that they make exceptions for Medicare certification, not for JCAHO accreditation," Fenninger says.
He says the proposed moratorium would last for one year, while the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission examines the issue of specialty hospitals.
Community hospitals allege that the facilities are skimming off their most lucrative patients without providing the community services that general hospitals provide, such as 24-hour emergency rooms.
According to an Oct. 22 report by the General Accounting Office, 45% of specialty hospitals operate ERs, compared with 92% of acute care hospitals.