Ambulatory surgery centers in Pennsylvania continued to grow in number and expand profit margins, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. Between June 2006 and May 2007, 28 new ASCs opened, bringing the statewide total to 232. Meanwhile, the statewide average total margin for ASCs increased to 21.02% in fiscal 2006 from 20.81% in 2005, which actually represents a leveling off as the statewide total margin increased 9.4 percentage points between 2001 and 2005, an average of 2.2 percentage points a year, the council said. In addition, the number of outpatient diagnostic and surgical procedures performed in Pennsylvania grew by 40.2% between 2000 and 2006 with more than two-thirds of that growth occurring at ASCs alone. During 2006, 27.5% of these procedures were performed at ASCsup from 10.2% in 2000.
The council noted that the majority of ASCs are limited liability partnerships, usually owned by physicians.
In a written response to the report, the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania suggested that legislators and regulators should examine the extent to which ambulatory surgery centerswhich now outnumber general acute-care hospitalsare driving the increase in healthcare costs. Such facilities remove profitable services from community hospitals and treat healthierand usually insuredpatients. The association called for equitable requirements for licensed health facilities, regardless of ownership or setting.
The Pennsylvania Ambulatory Surgery Association said in a news release that it was pleased with the results of the report and took exception to charges that ASCs treat only healthy patients. Simply stated, physicians are striving for, and have found in ASCs, the professional autonomy over their work environment and over the quality of care that has not been available to them in hospitals, the association said. -- by Cinda Becker