Four of Indiana's physician-owned hospitals have banded together to form a state association representing the interests of the 15 such facilities in the state.
The Indiana Physician Hospital Association describes its formation as a response to the threat of being tightly limited by the healthcare reform efforts of President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. The House and Senate bills both include language that would ban new physician-owned hospitals and limit the growth of existing ones.
The industry has perennially been targeted by competitors and lawmakers who say the profit motive of the physician investors corrupts medical decisionmaking, and Jane Keller, the president of the new Indiana group, declines to speculate whether the efforts of her state and national colleagues can eliminate the restrictive provision before any legislation reaches the president's desk. “I'm not even going to guess,” says Keller, who is CEO of 37-bed Indiana Orthopaedic Hospital in Indianapolis. St. Vincent Health, an Indianapolis-based division of Ascension Health, acquired a minority interest in Indiana Orthopaedic Hospital in October.
The other members of the new association so far are the Orthopaedic Hospital at Parkview North in Fort Wayne (a joint-venture with Parkview Hospital); Physicians Hospital System, Mishawaka; and Surgical Hospital of Munster.
Keller says the group is planning a membership drive at the beginning of 2010. The physician-owned hospitals in Indiana employ about 4,000 nurses and other staff, and 2,600 physicians, according to the association. Their interests, she concedes, might appear insignificant amid the complex national legislation that depends on the support of powerful interest groups, including the American Hospital Association and Federation of American Hospitals, both critics of physician ownership.
“We're a small piece of that, but we're a big piece of my employees' well-being and providing them jobs,” Keller says. “I know that's something else our representatives like to see.” Beyond adding its voice to the national debate, she says, the group wants to pursue state-level advocacy and become a networking resource for members.
The association was developed with the assistance of the Physician Hospitals of America, which represents about 200 hospitals in 35 states. Similar state associations have been established in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas.
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