Republican U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings of Washington state and Sam Johnson of Texas have introduced bills seeking to repeal sections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that place limits and mandate reporting requirements on physician ownership of hospitals.
Bills would repeal ACA limits on self-referral
Hastings' measure, H.R. 1159, would specifically repeal sections 6001, 6002 and 10601of the healthcare reform law. Those sections deal with the limits on physician-owned hospitals and referrals to those hospitals, reporting requirements on physician ownership and investment interests, and limits to Medicare exceptions to the prohibition on physician referrals. Johnson's bill calls for repealing sections 6001 and 10601, but doesn't mention 6002.
The Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley Medical Center, a physician-owned rural health system founded in 1940, is in Hastings's 4th Congressional District, and he has been a longtime opponent of restrictions on physician-owned hospitals—such as the system's 20-bed Wenatchee Valley Hospital. Johnson's district includes parts of Dallas and is home to nine physician-owned healthcare facilities including hospitals and surgery and rehabilitation centers.
In a news item on its website, the American Hospital Association criticized the bills.
“Congress already spoke on this issue when it passed a provision to ban self-referral to new physician-owned hospitals,” said AHA Executive Vice President Richard Pollack. “We strongly urge Congress to keep the ban in place. Repealing it would drive up healthcare costs and will make it hard for full-service hospitals to provide essential public services.”
Dr. Michael Russell, president of Physician Hospitals of America and a partner of the physician-owned Texas Spine and Joint Hospital in Tyler, said, "We support both bills 100%."
That said, Russell noted that Hastings has called for repeal of transparency requirements because it's unfair that physician-owned hospitals are required to disclose more data on its ownership arrangement than other institutions are required to. But, instead of repealing the disclosure requirement, Russell said everyone should be subject to the same rules.
"We are 100% behind transparency and disclosure," he said. "We are for transparency, and the more transparency, the better."
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