CMS Administrator Thomas Scully told a group of healthcare executives and students in Chicago today that he believes a Medicare reform bill provision would not end the proliferation of for-profit specialty hospitals, but would slow the construction of new ones "until we can study the issue." The provision, which was introduced by Sen. John Breaux, (D-La.), imposes a two-year moratorium on the whole-hospital exception of the Stark law, also known as the physician self-referral law. The Stark law prohibits physicians from referring patients to clinical laboratories and imaging centers in which they own a financial interest. The whole-hospital exception allows doctors to own stakes in whole hospitals and refer patients there, but concern from acute-care hospitals and policymakers about the rapid growth of physician-owned specialty hospitals spurred the proposed legislation. Scully told about 200 people attending the 20th Annual Malcolm T. MacEachern Symposium at Northwestern Memorial Hospital that he's not opposed to specialty hospitals, which he said may offer more focused care. -- by Mark Taylor
Scully: Specialty hospitals have their place
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