The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce encompasses all 67 counties in Florida, more than 40 local chambers of commerce and thousands of direct members and member companies. We work to improve the quality of life for every Hispanic and Hispanic business in Florida. One issue of critical importance to our members is affordable health care that puts patients first. For this reason, we would like to express concerns regarding legislation that would hurt our community by creating an unfair advantage for physician-owned hospitals (POH).
Congressional legislation, HR 976 and HR 2513, implies patients would have increased access to health care; however, the language would actually change current law to expand self-referrals to POHs. If either of these pieces of legislation became law, they would repeal safeguards that keep patients the top priority.
The Department of Health and Human Services, the Government Accountability Office and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission have studied this issue for more than 15 years. POHs refer insured patients to their facilities to increase the likelihood that they would maximize profit from a particular procedure. Patients that require more complex and costly procedures and treatments, including those who are uninsured or underinsured, are more frequently treated at competing full-service community hospitals. These types of hospitals cannot cherry-pick patients or procedures.
We want what is best for our members and their families as potential hospital patients, not for POHs to be based on profit or recoupment costs. Having POHs pick which patients they wish to treat further destabilizes our community’s access to health care.
With this legislation, POHs would have the ability to refer a patient to their hospital instead of a center that best suits the patients’ health needs. For example, instead of being referred to a medical center for their advanced technology and diagnostic imaging capabilities, patients may be referred to a POH for a physician’s monetary gain.
Since 2003, Congress has supported ending unfair self-referrals with the Medicare Modernization Act. In 2010, with the support of business and hospital groups, Congress enacted bipartisan legislation that banned future physician-self referrals and required necessary grandfathered arrangements to provide better financial and patient safety transparency. This system is fair and appropriately tailored to keep the health care industry balanced.
HR 976 and HR 2513 will weaken patient protections and allow current law to permit self-referrals at an increasingly rapid pace, which would negatively impact our community.
We should not let hospitals put their own self-interest above the interest of patients. Please urge your elected members of congress to oppose HR 976 and HR 2513 in order to continue to put patients and our community first. We cannot risk any more vulnerabilities within our health care system.
Julio Fuentes, president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce