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LINTHICUM, MD, JANUARY 30, 2009—The American Urological Association (AUA) applauds the U.S. Senate for passing legislation to reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The AUA, like the Senate, believes that the important work of reauthorizing SCHIP should focus on providing healthcare to children in need.

The AUA strongly opposes a provision in the House-passed version of the bill that would restrict physician-owned hospitals, hospitals, which have been shown to provide high quality care and patient satisfaction. The AUA commends the Senate for excluding this provision in its version of the legislation, and is hopeful that the conference committee will not add in this ban. Physician-owned hospitals promote the ultimate goals of healthcare reform: higher quality care at a lower cost. According to a recent report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which advises Congress on issues relating to Medicare payment and quality, physicians can perform more procedures and have a lower operating room turnaround time at a specialty hospital than at a community hospital. MedPAC also found that the community hospitals in areas it visited responded to marketplace pressure created by specialty hospitals by improving their own performance. In addition, physicians and surgeons who practice in these physician hospitals have greater access to more specialized equipment and staff than is available in a general hospital. There is no evidence to support the common allegation that physician-owned hospitals contribute to overutilization.

At present, there are nearly 200 physician-owned hospitals operating nationwide, and an additional 85 are currently under construction.

“If the provision banning physician-owned specialty hospitals is included in the final version of this legislation, most of the 85 facilities currently under construction would be halted and most of those facilities currently in operation would be financially crippled,” said AUA President John M. Barry, M.D. “This will severely restrict choice and access to care for patients in addition to putting more than 55,000 Americans out of work. This directly contradicts the government’s overarching goals for healthcare reform and economic stimulation.”

Physician-owned hospitals have been in existence for more than 75 years. Any action to prohibit physician-owned specialty hospitals would be an action to limit the competition that is so necessary to keep our national healthcare system moving forward to improve its efficiency, quality of care and patient satisfaction. We must support healthy competition by preserving these hospitals.

Lacey Dean, AUA