East Texas doctors file federal lawsuit against health care bill

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Texas Spine and Joint Hospital of Tyler filed a joint lawsuit with Physician Hospitals of America, Thursday.

The lawsuit questions the constitutionality of a specific part of the health care bill.  PHA said Section 6001 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act prohibits physician-owned Medicare hospitals from expanding after March 23, 2010.

PHA said new physician-owned Medicare hospitals that are not certified as Medicare providers prior to December 31, 2010 are now banned.

"For the government to tell us we can't go forward, it's very disheartening," said Mike Russell, and orthopedic surgeon and physician-owner of TSJH.

Texas Spine and Joint is one of 265 physician-owned hospitals across 34 states.  Nearly a quarter of them were in the middle of expansion projects when the health care bill passed.

Last fall, TSJ received city approval to begin a 50,000 square foot expansion which included 20 additional Medicare certified beds.

"It's just a travesty," said Molly Sandvig, executive director of PHA.  "We believe it's anti-competitive, and that is the number one issue."

Rep. Louie Gohmert attended a press conference at the TSJH.

"We need transparency and we need competition, and if we have those two things, you will see a reform of healthcare," he said.

David Henderson, representative to the State Democratic Executive Committee, and Smith County party chair, said as with any type of legislation, the new bill will be modified.

"The question is, can those who oppose it, have it completely thrown out?"  Henderson said that could occur through the courts, or through Congress.  Henderson said the TSJH lawsuit could lead to the first of those modifications.

Medicare patient, Lance Jett said he certainly hopes the courts rule in the Hospital's favor.

"I'm pulling for them," he said.

He said he is a satisfied Texas Spine and Joint customer.

The lawsuit also challenges one other issue, calling into question the legislation's ban on new physician-owned medicare hospitals that aren't certified by the end of the year.

As for the expansion angle, Texas Spine and Joint is seeking an injunction from the federal court which would allow them to continue as planned.  We are told the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has two weeks to respond to the filings.

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