A new federal study says that as many as 37 new specialty hospitals could open in the next year or so even if Congress extends the moratorium on physician referral to these niche facilities. If the 18-month moratorium, which officially ended Wednesday, is allowed to expire, "the increase would likely be much greater, but how much greater is uncertain," according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. According to the report, 26 new specialty hospitals are under development in 10 states. The agency also said the CMS so far has approved applications by 12 specialty hospitals seeking determinations they were grandfathered under the provisions of the Medicare Modernization Act because they were already under development before the moratorium took effect in December 2003. The report also indicated that between six and 23 specialty hospitals reportedly are currently under development without having sought exemption from the CMS. Though the moratorium expired this week, the CMS has indicated it will not certify any new specialty hospitals until January 2006, imposing a de facto ban while Congress considers the issue. -- by Michael Romano
Dozens of specialty hospitals in the works: GAO
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