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Why America Needs More Physician Hospitals and What's at Stake

August 2009 - THE SENIOR CENTER FOR HEATH AND SECURITY

America needs more physician hospitals, but unfortunately the political winds may be blowing in the opposite direction. As the multi-faceted nationwide health care reform debate heads into the homestretch, one critical issue at stake remains obscured in a number of the various thousand-page plus plans being discussed – the very existence of physician hospitals and the ability of millions of older Americans to access them for the very best in health care options. If some politicians use health care reform to strangle the promising future growth of physician hospitals, Medicare beneficiaries will suffer endlessly from one of the cruelest forms of health care rationing. The finest hospital care may be denied to them forever.

Numerous studies (both private and by government agencies) support the premise that physician hospitals have better health care outcomes, shorter stays, and far, far higher patient satisfaction ratings. Physician owners strive to give their patients the best care possible and this is borne out by these statistics. The facts cry out for the availability of far more physician hospitals in all states, not fewer in strictly limited areas. That’s Medicare rationing of the worst sort, and it clearly harms every older American. How good are physician hospitals? A new (August 2009) Consumer Reports study considering the views of over one million patients nationwide showed physician owned and operated hospitals as the very best in the country. Physician hospitals ranked as the number one hospital in 19 states, and near the top in the other states in which they operate. Unfortunately, there are 20 states where there are no physician hospitals, and where there may never be under the provisions of most of the health care reform plans.

What's At Stake?

America is an aging nation. As often noted, the number of people over age 65 will double by the year 2011, a mere two years hence. As millions of Baby Boomers become eligible for Medicare, and the number of Medicare beneficiaries grow to nearly 80 million, access to quality, affordable, and innovative health care must be a national priority. While the politicians continue to try to place an ever-greater emphasis on cost, older Americans must insist on quality health care that meets their individual needs.

Individual choice and personal responsibility must be the cornerstones of a modernized health care system designed to meet the challenges of our aging population. Health care decisions are best made between doctors and patients and should never be dictated by bureaucrats or mandated by politicians. Nowhere is this more apparent than in making the decision over which hospital best suits the needs of individual patients.

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