The departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor today released a report to the president identifying actions that states or the federal government could take to promote choice and competition in the health care market, as requested by the president in an executive order last October. The report includes policies that could: improve access to care by expanding providers’ scope of practice and patients’ access to telehealth; reduce funding for graduate medical education; scale back current restrictions on physician-owned hospitals; and weaken insurance protections for patients. 

“America’s hospitals and health systems embrace a competitive health care landscape, thereby increasing opportunities for consumers to get the care they need,” said AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels. “Based on our initial read, we are pleased by several of the proposals put forth in today’s report, such as those to broaden providers’ scope of practice and expand access to telehealth, which will improve access to care for patients.

“At the same time, we strongly oppose attempts to loosen the current restrictions on physician-owned hospitals. The Congressional Budget Office, Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and independent researchers have concluded that physician self-referral to facilities in which they have an ownership stake leads to greater per capita utilization of services and higher costs for the Medicare program. Further, physician-owned hospitals tend to cherry-pick the most profitable patients, jeopardizing communities’ access to full-service care. This trend creates a destabilizing environment that leaves sicker and less-affluent patients to community hospitals, threatening the health care safety net. We also oppose the restructuring of [GME] funding that would result in less federal support for physician training. We also have serious concerns regarding proposals to weaken insurance protections for patients, and any expansion of site-neutral policies. On interoperability, we look forward to working with the Administration on steps that would make it easier to share health information to engage patients and provide the best possible care without increasing regulatory burdens.

“We look forward to working with the Administration and other stakeholders to further accelerate progress in access and affordability to better serve patients.”