Specialty hospitals are once again the target of Congress as the U.S. House passed a mental-health parity bill with a provision that seeks to place major restrictions on physician-owned facilities. A lengthy provision in the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 would prohibit current physician-owned hospitals from expanding and would threaten the viability of these facilities in the future, said Molly Sandvig, executive director of the trade group Physician Hospitals of America.
We have a number of hospitals with holes dug and millions of dollars (invested) by physicians in communities to offer treatment options, and this doesnt give any leeway to continue to offer Medicare, Sandvig said.
The measure calls for hospitals to submit annual reports detailing ownership interests. It also states that physician owners in the aggregate must not own more than 40% of the total value of investment interest in the assets of the hospital or in an entity whose assets include the hospital, while individual physicians cannot invest more than 2% in a hospital. Also, if a facility admits a patient and does not have a physician available, it must disclose that to the patient, according to the bill.
The American Hospital Association, a longtime opponent of physician ownership, supported the measure, said Ellen Pryga, director of policy at the AHA. We think this is a workable approach and would get a handle on what is rapidly spinning out of control, Pryga said. -- by Jessica Zigmond with Matthew DoBias
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