Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act ban on physician-owned hospitals, and these facilities don’t have any interest in marking an eighth. As the CEO of Fresno Surgical Hospitals, a physician-owned hospital in Fresno, CA, I have seen just how damaging this ban has been. Congress must repeal this section of the ACA, and allow these high-quality, affordable hospitals to once again create jobs, increase competition, and improve overall patient care in their communities.
Patients throughout Fresno and the Central Valley know Fresno Surgical Hospital as a provider of excellent, affordable care in a personalized environment. What they likely do not know, is that Fresno Surgical Hospital – like all physician-owned hospitals throughout the United States – is prohibited from expanding or growing to provide such care to more patients due to an unjust and anti-competitive provision in the ACA. Despite the fact that our hospital employs 370 staff members and serves over 17,000 patients a year, we are banned from any further growth.
This provision – Section 6001 of the ACA – suppresses much-needed economic growth in areas like Fresno County, that are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession. Many opponents of physician-owned hospitals claim that these facilities only operate in high-income areas and only treat the healthy and well-insured, but that is certainly not the case here in Fresno County. As the chart below clearly shows and as the Fresno Bee has reported, Fresno continues to lag behind the rest of California. This is neither the time nor the place to be stifling economic growth.
|Median Household Income|
|Per Capita Income|
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau (www.census.gov)
If Congress were to take action to lift the ban on physician-owned hospitals, Fresno Surgical Hospital stands ready to grow. We currently have a second story wing of the hospital left empty for three years, space that could be used for new in-patient beds and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to treat patients. This space sits empty, because construction could not be completed prior to the arbitrary date of enactment of the ACA-ban on physician-owned hospitals.
Of all hospitals, Fresno Surgical Hospital should not be restricted from providing services to more patients. We have been recognized by both the federal government and private entities for providing some of the safest, highest-quality care. We are the only hospital in the area to be awarded a 5-star rating based on patient satisfaction surveys. And, we have one of the highest nurse-to-patient ratios among area hospitals, ensuring that patients receive personalized, responsive care.
Furthermore, FSH strives to support our community. We participate in community food drives, Toys for Tots, coat drives for the needy, and blood drives, one of which honored the Fresno Fire Department Chief. We have also been a proud sponsor of the annual Art of Life event that provides art therapy to cancer patients and survivors.
Fresno Surgical Hospital is just one of hundreds of facilities across the United States who could improve patient care, reduce costs to patients and create jobs if Congress lifted the ban on physician-owned hospitals. After seven years of a ban that limits growth, restricts competition and harms patients, it is time for Congress to act.