The CMS plans to release a definition of "specialty hospitals" indicating what types of facilities will be covered by an 18-month moratorium on physician investment in new for-profit specialty hospitals, Modern Healthcare has learned.
The moratorium, passed last year as part of the Medicare reform law after heavy lobbying by the general acute-care hospital industry, exempts facilities "under development," which the CMS also will define.
A source in the government, who requested anonymity, confirmed that the CMS is expected to release the guidance in the coming weeks in the form of a "change request," which allows for immediate implementation. A regulation, in contrast, can require 18 months to more than two years before it becomes final.
Healthcare lawyer David Hilgers, of Brown McCarroll in Austin, Texas, said the guidance will be timely and significant. "The future of doctor-owned specialty hospitals could hinge on what requirements the CMS sets out," Hilgers said.
The number of for-profit hospitals specializing in particular service lines, such as orthopedics and cardiology, has tripled since 1990, and many more are planned. Most have physician investors.
Community hospitals complain that specialty facilities provide only the most profitable services, leaving them with the money-losers.