During a Senate subcommittee hearing on the competitive impact of specialty hospitals, subcommittee Chairman Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said that proposed Medicare payment revisions would likely discourage specialty hospitals from cherry-picking the most profitable cases. Coburn, a physician specializing in surgical obstetrics, implied but did not explicitly state that he opposed extending an 18-month moratorium on physician self-referral to specialty hospitals. The Republican Policy Committee on Monday came out against any extension. The moratorium, set to expire June 8, was imposed to give Congress time to consider an argument by general acute-care hospitals that specialty hospitals have an unfair advantage. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has recommended continuing the moratorium until Jan. 1, 2007. The CMS has proposed payment changes to address differences between specialty and general acute-care hospitals and could effectively extend the moratorium during the interim. Meanwhile, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have introduced legislation that would make the moratorium permanent by eliminating the whole-hospital exemption in self-referral law. -- by Tony Fong
Panel chair implies opposition to specialty-hospital moratorium
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