Physician-owned Hospitals Under Fire In Reform Bills, While One M.D. Moves Into Franchising
The mood in Washington to compromise with hospitals, pharmaceutical makers and physician groups is not extending to physician-owned specialty hospitals, Time reports. "Any health-reform package passed by Congress will likely deal a major blow to an upstart competitor of many hospitals. Buried in the 850-page House health-reform draft is a provision that could in effect ban further construction of doctor-owned, for-profit specialty hospitals and prohibit existing ones from expanding. Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus, who lead the body's powerful Finance Committee, have been vocal critics of the doctor-owned specialty-hospital model and the industry expects similar language to be included in any upcoming Senate health-reform bill as well."
Congress is targeting hospitals that focus on high-price procedures in areas such as orthopedics and cardiology, and lure patients with the offer of such added amenities as wine and gourmet meals, Time reports. However, despite the add-ons, many such hospitals don't have adequate emergency facilities, and may not have an on-site physician at all times, a shortcoming that regulators say have contributed to recent deaths. There are 220 such hospitals currently operating, with another 80 under development, mainly in the South and Midwest (Pickert and Stier, 7/13).
Meanwhile, Dr. Scott Burger, the proprietor of Doctors Express, an urgent care center in Towson, Md., wants to do "for urgent health care what, say, Papa John's did for pizza - making sure the public can find it anywhere and always knows what it's going to get," USA Today reports. His model would put a Doctors Express "in every community, at least one," and sell franchises perhaps as many as 3,000, with $500,000 in start-up costs each to corporate managers around the country. The franchisers needn't be medical professionals, Burger says, although he promises a physician on duty at all times. The first franchise based on the Towson center will be in Texas (Jones, 7/13).