The CMS is forging ahead with plans to require physician-owned hospitals to disclose who those physicians are and what theyre getting out of the deal.
The CMS in late May began its 90-day collection of public comment on a proposal to require 500 specialty and competitor hospitals to submit detailed reports disclosing ownership, investment and compensation arrangements.
But Cindy Morrison, vice president of public policy at Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health, says collecting information doesnt go far enough, a view shared by the American Hospital Association.
That type of disclosure doesnt do much to help patientspatients hold trust in their physicians judgment, says Morrison, who testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the issue a year ago on behalf of Sanford and a coalition of hospitals lined up against their physician-owned competitors.
Officials in the specialty hospital industry say theyre fine with the disclosure but question the CMS narrow approach. If the issue at hand truly is one of conflict of interest, conflicts of interest are pervasive in the hospital industry, says Scott Clark, vice president and general counsel for Chicago-based National Surgical Hospitals, which has partnerships with facilities in nine states.
If theres going to be disclosure, there should be disclosure of all financial interests between a physician and a hospital, Clark says. That should require all hospitals to disclose directorships, salaries, bonuses, consulting arrangements, lease arrangements, anytime that there is a significant financial arrangement between the two parties.
Nevertheless, Paul Kerens, senior executive officer of the Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute in Leawood, Kan., says the request from the CMS is not a huge burden and not much of a surprise either. Weve been under scrutiny, I think, from the beginning, says Kerens, who also is president of the Kansas Surgical Hospital Association.
Kerens and peers at other scrutinized hospitals say they have few objections to the actual information sought. Tom Malasto, CEO of the Indiana Heart Hospital in Indianapolis, says his for-profit venture was crafted to be efficient but still in harmony with the charitable mission of its not-for-profit majority owner, Community Health Network.
Like anything, sometimes a few bad apples make it difficult for others, Malasto says. I think the specialty hospital industry itself will continue to be under the watchful eye of many regulatory authorities.What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected]. Please include your name, title and hometown.