Maria Hernandez

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H.R. 977- Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act of 2023.


Description: When a patient has health insurance, depending on which premium, they are made to use providers or hospitals that are “in-network” to avoid higher costs of services. This can often be an issue for patients because some providers are not in network with their health insurance, specifically Medicare recipients. The Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act would “repeal changes made by health care reform laws to the Medicare exception to the prohibition on certain physician referrals for hospitals” (Congress.gov, 2023).

Background: According to the American Hospital Association, “For decades, the Ethics in Patient Referrals Act (“Stark Law”) has protected the Medicare program from the inherent conflict of interest created when physicians self-refer their patients to facilities and services in which they have a financial stake” (AHA, n.d.). At one point, physicians were allowed to make referrals to hospitals with ownership within the entire facility; this gap was closed in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was passed.  

Social Determinant: One social determinant is access to health care and quality care. Patients, regardless of their socioeconomic status, should receive high-quality care. The American Hospital Association states, “The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and MedPAC all found that physician-owned hospitals’ patients tend to be healthier than patients with the same diagnoses at general hospitals” (AHA, n.d.). This would lead those with serious illnesses to rely on general hospitals for healthcare services.

Evidence: The growth of Physician-owned hospitals was prohibited in 2010 after the passing of the Affordable Care Act. According to Ehrenfeld, “a systematic review of 30 years of research demonstrating that physician-owned specialty hospitals or so-called “focused factories” offer higher-quality care at comparable or lower cost, while physician-owned community hospitals are no worse than their counterparts” (Ehrenfeld, 2023). If H.R. 977 is passed into law, it would allow physicians of physician-owned hospitals to extend their services to the community by opening new hospitals that would provide high-quality, efficient care and be affordable to patients. This would place competition against general hospitals at risk of losing market share, leading them to reform their services to stay in competition. This would benefit patients in being able to seek assistance in a variety of hospital or hospital-owned facilities. 



American Hospital Association. (n.d.). Fact sheet: Physician self-referral to physician-owned hospitals. https://www.aha.org/fact-sheets/2023-02-27-fact-sheet-physician-self-referral-physician-owned-hospitals

Congress.gov. (n.d.). H.R.977 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act of 2023. https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/977?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+977%22%5D%7D&s=1&r=1

Ehrenfeld, J. M. (2023, August 10). End restrictions on physician-owned hospitals to expand Quality Care. American Medical Association. https://www.ama-assn.org/about/leadership/end-restrictions-physician-owned-hospitals-expand-quality-care