Nearly one-fifth -- 19% -- of Pennsylvania patients are choosing freestanding surgery and diagnostic centers over hospitals, according to a new study by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, an independent state agency. Between July 2003 and May 2004, 48 new ambulatory surgery centers opened in Pennsylvania, bringing the total to 161. In the two years between fiscal years 2001 and 2003, patient visits to surgery centers increased 83% to 501,781 from 279,335. The surgery centers are profitable, too, with the average operating margin increasing to 16% in fiscal year 2003 from 12% in fiscal year 2002, according to report. Thanks in large part to a $53 million increase in revenue under the Medicare Prospective Payment System, rehabilitation hospitals experienced an average total margin of 11% in fiscal year 2003, up from 2% during 2002, the authors said. Psychiatric hospitals, however, continue to struggle, the report said, posting an average operating margin in fiscal year 2003 of negative 1.8%. Psychiatric hospitals have posted statewide negative average operating margins for nine consecutive years. Copies of the report are available at the agency's web site. -- by Cinda Becker
Pa. patients pick ASCs, snub hospitals, agency says
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