A right to ownership, but not to receive Medicare payment
LETTER — Posted Sept. 6, 2010
Regarding: "Physician-owned hospitals: Endangered species?" (Article, June 28): I believe it is reasonable and appropriate for physicians to own hospitals, surgery centers, GI suites, radiology centers, etc. This is despite clear data suggesting that self-referral is more costly.
I also believe it is appropriate for insurance companies to choose which providers and facilities to contract with. As a shareholder of a large insurance provider, Medicare (I am a taxpayer), I support any legislation that forbids Medicare patients from receiving care where a physician refers to a facility in which he or she has financial interest. As mentioned previously, I respect the right of the physician to own a facility. As a taxpayer, I will vote for representatives that forbid such conflicts of interest.
Most physicians practice without economic motive. However, we are human and subject to human frailties. If the equation of care is minimally influenced by business factors, patients may suffer. Too much or too little care has been clearly identified as potentially harmful. There are many facilities to refer to that are not owned by physicians; thus, a prohibition on self-referral introduces no risk of too little care. And with the cost of Medicare predicted to weigh heavily on generations to come, it seems logical and obvious that self-referral should be eliminated.
Robert Naveles, MD, Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/09/06/edlt0906.htm.