The number of physician practices owned by hospitals and health systems jumped 86% from 2012 to 2015, according to a survey conducted by the Avalere Health for the Physicians Advocacy Institute (PAI).
The number of physicians employed by hospitals increased by nearly 50% during the same period, from 95,000 doctors in 2012 to more than 140,000 physicians in 2015, the survey shows.
Just in a six month period from July 2014 to January 2015, nearly 20,000 physicians shifted into hospital employment models and 13,000 practices were acquired.
Analyzing the impact of the increase in physician employment, the Avalere researchers noted that working for a hospital can reduce the burdens of private practice. In addition, they said, “Government and private payer payment policies increasingly favor integrated health systems and make it challenging for physician practices to remain independent.”
The report also observed that when physicians go to work for hospitals, the health systems can charge medicare more for ambulatory care services than the doctors could charge when they were in private practice. That is because of a feature of Medicare reimbursement policy that defines the practice site of hospital-employed doctors as the hospital outpatient department (HOPD), where care is reimbursed at a higher rate than it is in an independent physician office.
An earlier PAI analysis developed by Avalere found that Medicare payments for three common services are up to three times higher when performed in an HOPD rather than in a physician-owned practice.
“Medicare spends less when patients receive treatment in a physician’s office, yet the number of physician-owned medical practices is rapidly shrinking,” said Kelly Kenney, PAI’s executive vice president, in a news release. “The shift toward more physicians employed by hospitals could mean higher costs for the entire health care system. For patients, it impacts both where they receive and how much they pay for care.”
Diagnostic Imaging Services has long touted the savings people receive when they choose us for the medical imaging exams. Hospitals are more expensive. That is abundantly clear. Numerous studies and articles on the subject all draw that conclusion. Independent medical providers, from doctors to imaging centers to labs, perform the same services at far less cost. For people with insurance deductibles, that is a very important factor.
People have the choice and the right to choose where to go for their testing. Ask your doctor for a choice that provides high-caliber medical care for imaging studies and yet performs these services at far lower price levels than area hospitals.
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