Barney Bishop: Self-promoting physician-owned hospitals will put patients at risk

It’s important for the public to know what legislative change means for our everyday lives. All too often common-sense policies are influenced by special interests and therefore compromise public benefit.

For example, Acts H.R. 976 and H.R. 2513 appear to help improve our healthcare system, but in reality they would re-establish a bad policy for the public and hospitals in Florida. These Acts would reinstate physicians’ ability to recommend a physician-owned hospital to more affluent patients rather than offer the best facility to treat a patient for their health condition(s).

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) originally raised concerns about cherry-picking and rapid growth within physician-owned hospitals. As a result the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 placed a ban on referrals to new physician-owned hospitals. Bipartisan legislation also was passed in 2010 that prospectively banned physician self-referrals, required grandfathering to provide better financial and patient safety and transparency, and permitted such grandfathered arrangements to expand only if they meet certain criteria.

Those policies continue to help level the playing field between community hospitals and physician-owned hospitals.

Imagine if all hospitals could choose their patients and refuse service to persons with certain types of insurance or simply decline service to patients who do not have insurance at all. That would not be a reasonable or responsible process for our government or our healthcare system.

Patients should receive advice from their doctor irrespective of business conditions and certainly the doctors’ monetary benefit. That seems to be a logical enough reason for lawmakers to vote “no” on this legislation.

Consumer protections in the healthcare industry ensure stability for the provider, patients and their families. We have enough to worry about during a stay at the hospital, before and/or after a procedure or surgery. We should not add insult to injury and create bad policy that will generate angst between hospitals and add undue stress on patients.

As we continue to watch Congress battle over the federal budget and potentially risk another government shutdown, let’s encourage them to leave good policies alone and focus on their tasks at hand.

Barney Bishop, immediate past President and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida and former Executive Director of the Democratic Party. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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