Senators introduce bill to expand physician-owned hospitals

Alexis Kayser

A proposed bill in the U.S. Senate would expand the rights of physician-owned hospitals — including some privileges that were rescinded more than a decade ago. 

Sen. James Lankford from Oklahoma has reintroduced the Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act, alongside several other Republican lawmakers. If passed, the law would remove the Affordable Care Act’s ban on the creation and expansion of new physician-owned hospitals, which has been in place since 2010. 

The law would also allow physician-owned hospitals to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, according to a Feb. 21 news release from Mr. Lankford’s office. 

Mr. Lankford and Brian Miller, MD, a practicing hospitalist and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, argued the bill would increase competition in a Feb. 20 opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal

“What if lawyers weren’t allowed to own law firms or chefs weren’t allowed to own restaurants?” the article reads. “Sounds absurd, but it’s a reality for one profession: doctors.” 

The hospital industry has argued that physician-owned hospitals have too much financial stake in the game, choosing healthy patients with private insurance over sicker ones who require charity care. That notion — which defended the Obama-era restrictions — is false, according to the authors. 

“[The Affordable Care Act restriction] limits competition, defies common sense and is likely contributing to higher prices for Medicare and reduced access to treatment for millions of Americans,” the authors wrote. 

The opinion piece also argues that lessening restrictions on physician-owned hospitals would increase care options in rural areas. 

“Physician-led hospitals meet community needs by focusing on the most important relationship in health care — the patient-physician relationship,” said Jack Resneck Jr., MD, president of the American Medical Association. “Yet, the combination of current law and hospital consolidation is making these success stories rare.”

“We welcome Sen. Lankford’s bill that would re-introduce competition and protect compassionate health care delivery,” Dr. Resneck continued. “After witnessing hospital closures — especially in rural areas — patients must wonder what Congress is doing about it.”