Media Largely Ignore ObamaCare's War on
By Ken Shepherd | March 29, 2012 |
With the two-year anniversary of the law's signing and this week's
marathon set of hearings before the Supreme Court about ObamaCare, it's
a good time to examine just another area where the media have failed to
report on a little-reported liberty-infringing aspect of the health care
No, I'm not talking about not the individual mandate. I'm talking
about a provision that forbids the formation of new physician-owned
hospitals (POHs) and severely restricts the expansion of existing ones.
As USA Today reported in October 2010 (emphasis mine):
Physician-owned hospitals, which proliferated in the 1990s, have sparked
intense battles within the hospital industry for years. The facilities'
rivals -- non-profit community hospitals and for-profit institutions
without physician investors -- have long pressed Congress to curb
physician facilities. In 2003, Congress imposed a lengthy moratorium on
the construction of new doctor-owned hospitals that specialize in
cardiac, orthopedics and other specific areas.
The new law is much tougher. It applies to all physician
hospitals, even those that aren't specialty facilities. Besides barring
new doctor-owned hospitals after this year, it prohibits the 269
existing institutions from expanding unless they meet stringent
conditions. As a result, backers of the physician hospitals say, the new
law is something of a legal minefield for doctors' facilities.
So essentially POHs have been targeted by rivals that are
better-connected politically and exploited those connections to afflict
POHs in the ObamaCare law, which of course was exceedingly long and
which hardly anyone actually read before voting on.
Considering that the media love to paint physicians and medical
specialists as the heroes and large corporations as the villains in
health care stories, you'd think they'd be all over a provision in the
law that is certain to affect Americans' access to health care from
hospitals where the practicing physicians actually own the facility. But
alas, that's not the case and in fact what little coverage there is
paints supporters of POHs as advocating a special interest.
A search of Nexis from March 2010 thru today finds zero mentions of
either "physician-owned hospital" or "doctor-owned hospital." Similar
searches of Nexis through editions of the Washington Post yielded only
one hit, a February 16, 2012 article that noted that "Senate Republicans
demanded a provision" in a $150-billion economic stimulus bill "that
would exempt physician-owned hospitals from portions of the 2010
health-care law, a move Democrats opposed."
Searches through the New York Times yielded only one story, from
December 13, 2011, entitled "G.O.P. Bill Would Benefit Doctor-Owned
Hospitals", and that was skewed to attack POHs (emphasis mine):
WASHINGTON -- The House Republican bill to hold down payroll taxes and
extend unemployment benefits, coming up for a vote on Tuesday, offers a
special dispensation to doctors who invest in hospitals.
The bill would repeal and relax several provisions of the 2010 health
care law that clamped down on doctor-owned hospitals. The bill would
allow such hospitals to open if they were under construction at the end
of last year, and it would allow them to expand if they were already in
Congressional aides say dozens of hospitals and their physician owners
Numerous studies have found that when doctors have a financial stake in
a hospital, they tend to order more tests and procedures, raising costs
for Medicare and other insurers.
Many doctor-owned hospitals specialize in surgery, orthopedics or
heart care. Proponents say they provide superior services.
The provision of the House bill allowing the spread and expansion of
doctor-owned hospitals would increase federal spending by $300 million
over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said.
Dr. Michael E. Russell II, president of Physician Hospitals of America,
a trade group for doctor-owned institutions, said the 2010 law ''limits
access to care,'' at a time when the need for it will increase because
of the expansion of coverage. More than 30 million Americans are
expected to gain insurance under the 2010 health care law.
Dr. Russell said the House Republican bill would benefit 25 to 30
hospitals that were under construction but had not opened. In addition,
he said, more than half of the 270 existing doctor-owned hospitals want
to expand, and they too could benefit.
But Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the
Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said the provision dealing with
doctor-owned hospitals was ''a special interest giveaway.''
Richard J. Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital
Association, said his group could not support the House Republican bill
because it would cut Medicare payments to hospitals, forcing some to
“limit services and limit access for patients.”
Mr. Umbdenstock also deplored the loosening of restrictions on
“Research shows that there is more utilization of services when
hospitals are owned by physicians,” Mr. Umbdenstock said.