Congress Gets Bad Advice on Specialty Hospitals

Published March 9, 2005

Most Americans are aware that our health care system is broken. Unfortunately, Congress got some bad advice earlier this week that would make it more difficult to fix what’s wrong.

An advisory panel recommended Congress continue its temporary ban on new specialty hospitals. Specialty hospitals focus on a few areas of care, such as heart surgery or women’s health. By specializing, they are able to improve the quality of care and lower costs. They also add needed capacity, as the Baby Boomers begin retiring in a few years and start to need more medical care.

Because specialty hospitals can also take away market share from large hospitals and cut into their profits, the large hospitals got Congress to temporarily ban new specialty hospitals in 2003. The ban is supposed to end this June, but the large hospitals have been flexing their political muscles (and $2 million in contributions in 2004) to try to eliminate the competition, and have asked Congress to extend the ban.

Allowing the ban to expire in June, as Congress originally intended, would allow specialty hospitals to once again inject competition and innovation into the nation’s health care system. Patients everywhere would benefit.

Sean Parnell
Chicago, IL
phone 312/377-4000
[email protected]

Sean Parnell ([email protected]) is vice president for The Heartland Institute.