Three leading House Democrats asked the CMS to determine why specialty hospitals treat fewer minorities than general acute-care hospitals and to continue a moratorium on certifying new physician-owned specialty hospitals until it does so. In a letter to CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, the Democrats cited a studying showing that 3.6% of Medicare patients in physician-owned cardiac hospitals were African-American, compared with 9.6% at general acute-care hospitals. Hispanics and other minorities accounted for 1.7% and 2.6%, respectively, of patients at cardiac hospitals, compared with 2.2% and 3.1%, respectively, at general hospitals. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission conducted the study for the Senate Finance Committee.
The Democrats -- Reps. John Lewis (Ga.), Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and Pete Stark (Calif.) -- asked the CMS to explore patterns of self-referrals to specialty hospitals and discharges by race for non-Medicare patients, among other issues. A moratorium on new physician-owned specialty hospitals ended last month, but the CMS has said it will not certify facilities until it revises the Medicare payment system to reflect differences between specialty and general hospitals. Read the letter. -- by Tony Fong