There’s a structural shift that is sweeping the health care system – hospitals are acquiring private physician practices. It is happening all over the U.S., including right here in Central Florida. On December 31, 2012, Orlando Health – a nonprofit, multi-hospital system that owns Orlando Regional Medical Center and eight other hospitals – will allegedly merge with Physician Associates – Central Florida’s largest medical practice, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The alleged price tag on this sale is $50 million, with each of the group’s 95 physicians receiving about $500,000 a piece.
Critics Believe the Merger will Hurt Patients.
Orlando Health maintains the goal of the merger is to move toward a new payment model and reduce health care costs, but critics interviewed in the Orlando Sentinel article disagree.
The trend around the country is that after a merger patients will see a facility fee tacked onto a doctor’s fee, even if patients go to the same doctor’s office. Critics also believe providers will feel obligated, or will be required, to only refer patients to the hospital that employs them. Another fear is job loss, as hospitals take over office management.
An Investigation into Acquisitions.
In August 2012, the Wall Street Journal took a closer look at what happens after an acquisition of a private practice by a hospital system.
The article stated as physicians are absorbed into hospital systems, they can get paid for services at the hospital systems’ rates, which are typically higher than what insurers pay to independent doctors. Some services that physicians previously performed at their facilities may start to be billed as hospital outpatient procedures, this can double or triple the cost.
Medicare pays more for certain services if they are performed at hospital facilities. According to the Wall Street Journal, if a hospital system transforms a private clinic to become an outpatient facility or moves services onto a hospital site, the hospital’s Medicare reimbursement rates will increase.
Physician Associates Writes Letter to Patients.
On November 15, 2012, the Physician Associates Chairman of the Board of Directors posted a letter to patients on the practice’s website. The letter assures patients nothing about the service they receive will change. The letter says the sale is about patients receiving the best possible care in a new, fast-paced health care environment. In response to the sale price, the chairman said a large component of the purchase price reflects the sale of all of the Physician Associates’ assets to Orlando Health, along with an agreement to provide future employment.
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What do you think of the merger between Physician Associates and Orlando Health? Who do you think it will benefit more, the patients or the doctors? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Jameson, Marni. “$50M sale of Physician Associates Signals Major Shift in Orlando Health Care.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-11-13/news/os-physician-associates-orlando-health-20121109_1_orlando-health-health-care-physicians
Wilde Matthews, Anna. “Same Doctor Visit, Double the Cost.” Wall Street Journal. (August 27, 2012). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577601113671007448.html
Walker, M.D., Erik. “Letter to Our Patients Regarding Potential Orlando Health Merger.” Physician Associates. (November 15, 2012). From: http://www.paof.com/news/2012/11/letter-our-patients-regarding-potential-orlando-health-merger
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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