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Azar eyes relaxing restrictions on physician-owned hospitals

Two weeks into his new submit, HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday took one other step within the Trump administration’s transfer towards relaxing the Affordable Care Act’s moratorium on new physician-owned hospitals.

In the HHS price range listening to earlier than the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) requested for Azar to commit the administration to assist repeal the ACA’s “ban” on physician-owned hospitals.

Azar promised he would assist change present restrictions even when he stopped wanting saying he would assist a full repeal. The ACA provision successfully blocks new physician-owned hospitals from being established by barring them from Medicare. Existing physician-owned hospitals that wish to develop into new amenities can request an exception from the HHS secretary in the event that they meet sure necessities or have a excessive price of Medicaid sufferers.

“I commit to work with you on any changes we can make to make sure we are allowing good competition allowing physician-owned, or other-owned, facilities to compete and deliver the highest quality, low-cost care to our beneficiaries, so I’m very happy to work with you,” Azar mentioned.

Johnson, whose north Texas district consists of physician-owned hospitals like Victory Healthcare and the Dallas-based Forest Park Medical Center, has spoken out towards the ACA’s restrictions on physician-owned hospitals because the regulation handed.

Texas is among the uncommon states that does not require new hospitals to acquire permission to construct new amenities, and it has the best variety of physician-owned programs within the nation. The commerce group Physician Hospitals of America counts 69 member hospitals in Texas, 10 of that are in Dallas and Dallas County, based on a spokesperson for the group.

Last 12 months, Johnson launched a invoice that may repeal the ACA restrictions. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) launched the companion invoice within the higher chamber.

Azar, in a question-and-answer with Johnson, mentioned physician-owned hospitals would assist foster “effective competition” for different hospitals.

“It’s my understanding that many physician-owned hospitals provide superb quality care, and we ought to be inspiring competition among providers,” Azar mentioned.

Azar’s remarks aren’t the primary signal that the Trump administration could also be eyeing a change within the ACA restrictions.

Last April, the Trump administration began soliciting comments on what position physician-owned hospitals ought to take within the general well being system in addition to on which laws ought to be rolled again.

Hospital teams adamantly oppose any lifting of those restrictions, which they are saying would finally harm sufferers and communities.

In June of final 12 months, two highly effective hospital associations—the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals—teamed as much as write a letter to lawmakers to oppose the invoice.

“For more than 15 years, community hospitals, policymakers, the business community and governmental advisory bodies have grappled with overutilization and higher healthcare costs caused by self-referral to physician-owned hospitals,” the letter mentioned.

In their letter, hospitals additionally cited evaluation from a healthcare consulting agency Dobson/DaVanzo evaluating physician-owned hospitals to non-physician-owned hospitals. The evaluation mentioned physician-owned hospitals had been extra prone to reject Medicaid and uninsured sufferers and take on fewer medically complicated circumstances. The all-payer margins had been practically thrice these of non-physician-owned hospitals, the evaluation mentioned.

Erik Rasmussen, vp of legislative affairs for the AHA, doubled down on the group’s opposition to coverage change as a result of he mentioned the cherry-picking of more healthy sufferers hurts different hospitals.

“When physicians are allowed to self-refer patients, they tend to send the healthiest and wealthiest patients to their own facilities,” Rasmussen mentioned. “This cherry-picking of healthier, better-insured patients erodes the healthcare safety net, unfairly leaves other hospitals with higher costs, and can jeopardize access to critical services in many communities.”

Physician-owned hospitals, nonetheless, body the moratorium within the context of diminishing competitors amid a development of supplier consolidation.

“Increasing hospital consolidation hurts patients through lower quality, increased costs and reduced access—essentially the opposite of the triple aim,” John Richardson, government director of Physician Hospitals of America, mentioned in an announcement. “While a lot of attention has been placed on health plan competition, very little has focused on providers.”

Richardson mentioned his group “stands ready” to work with Azar to “restore competitors to the hospital market.

“The moratorium on physician-owned hospitals ought to be lifted, in order that extra sufferers are in a position to profit from the upper high quality, decrease value healthcare these physician-led amenities present to their native communities,” Richardson mentioned.

In a separate Wednesday listening to by the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee that appeared on the impression of consolidation on healthcare costs, one other Texas lawmaker raised the problem of the moratorium as effectively.

About Zeeshan Iqbal Soomro

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