The Trump administration last week signaled that it may be open to loosening restrictions on physician-owned hospitals. In a proposed rule for inpatient hospitals, the CMS is seeking comments on the appropriate role of physician-owned hospitals within the delivery system. The agency is also asking if a ban on physician-owned hospitals should be spiked.
Hospital trade groups successfully lobbied Congress to include an amendment in the Affordable Care Act that prevents physician-owned hospitals from expanding their existing facilities unless the HHS secretary deems it beneficial to the community. The law also prohibits investors from increasing ownership stakes in hospitals and prohibits providers from referring any Medicare and Medicaid patients to hospitals in which they hold any stake. Hospital lobbyists have long maintained that physician-owned facilities cherry-pick patients needing treatments with high profit margins such as orthopedic surgery.
Since the law was enacted, studies have shown there was no cherry-picking of patients and that the ACA has slowed the rate of new physician-owned hospitals.
It's unclear how HHS could lift the restrictions since the ACA is still the law, said Jeff Goldsmith, president of consultancy Health Futures.