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Hospital Monopolies Turn Thoughtful Solution on Rural Hospital Access Into a Debate on Physician Ownership

May 9, 2024

As consolidation, rising costs, and decreasing access to physicians and hospitals spiral out of control, special interest groups would rather let a hospital close than allow physicians to serve their community. 

PHA commends Congressman Jodey Arrington (R-TX) for introducing a thoughtful approach to address rural hospital closures through HR 8246, the “Second Chances for Rural Hospitals Act.” As drafted, the bill would allow rural and critical access hospitals that have closed from 2014 to 2020 to re-open and convert to a rural emergency hospital (REH). 

Despite offering rural communities a lifeline, hospital monopolies strongly oppose the bill, due to a potential provision that could allow for physician ownership in a currently closed rural hospital. Rural communities are facing a healthcare crisis, and Congressman Arrington’s reasonable legislation would help his community and rural communities across America by offering H.R. 8246. Congressman Arrington represents over two dozen west Texas rural counties, many of which lack a hospital.

Since 2010, 130 rural hospitals have closed. These rural communities need care. A thoughtful solution has emerged, and special interests are fixated on eliminating competition by severing a rural community’s ability to access high-quality, low-cost physician-led healthcare. 

H.R. 8246 would create a path forward for communities to provide care in rural healthcare deserts. For many rural communities in west Texas, the community EMS service is the only healthcare provider in that community. The rural EMS agencies must drive across multiple counties to take heart attack, stroke and automobile crash victims to a hospital. Rural patients deserve to have a hospital in their own community.

“Our nation’s healthcare policy debates have somehow turned physicians into the healthcare system’s villains,” PHA President Joseph Alhadeff, MD said. “Physicians are the backbone of the healthcare system and the participants in the healthcare system whom patients trust the most. No other member of the system features as much training as a physician. Yet special interests in Washington are somehow attacking physicians to avoid the conversation about consolidation, higher prices and lower quality, which are the opposite outcomes of physician-led healthcare.”

Our current healthcare system is failing. Americans are faced with rising prices, hospital closures and limited access. Today, 600 rural hospitals are at risk of closure. Ultimately, lawmakers, regulators, health policy leaders, patients and physicians are looking for solutions to address crippling consolidation and closures. The continuous flow of studies enumerates the multiple economic and social benefits of physician-led and owned hospitals.