East Texas hospital takes on health care bill

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A group of East Texas doctors are headed to federal court. Back in March, Texas Spine and Joint Hospital filed a joint lawsuit with Physician Hospitals of America.

They are challenging what they call, an unconstitutional section of the health care bill. Thursday, a federal judge will decide whether the complaint holds weight and goes to trial.

The eyes of the nation's healthcare will be on Tyler. Section 6001 of the health care bill prohibits Texas Spine and Joint and other physician-owned hospitals from expanding.

The Tyler hospital was in the middle of a multi-million dollar expansion project when the bill passed.

"A lot of the governmental programs are pushing us to better patient satisfaction, better outcomes, better quality [and] that's what we do...and so it doesn't make sense," said Dr. Mike Russell. "It's not rational that the government would limit our expansion."

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mike Russell is part owner of Texas Spine and Joint. He is hopeful the judge will rule in the hospital's favor.

The lawsuit claims doctor-owned hospitals came into focus during the health reform debates to help reduce medicare costs. It is reported Medicare spending goes up at hospitals like Texas Spine and Joint.

"[I] graduated from a walker, to a cane and now I'm able to function and do things with my kids I was not able to do before," said Shelly Martin.

Martin is uninsured. She says four years ago, her back pain became too much to bear for her and traditional hospitals. "I'd be treated with pain killers and sent home," she said.

She says her friend referred her to Texas Spine and Joint. Doctors there operated on her spine for free. "It was the biggest blessing ever for me," she said. "It's not about politics [or] the checkbook, it's about the person."

Texas Spine and Joint is asking the court to allow them to continue its expansion project as planned.

The lawsuit also challenges a ban on any new physician-owned medicare hospitals that won't be certified by the end of the year.

The case will be heard, Wednesday at 2 p.m., inside the Federal Court building in Tyler.

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