The current wave of practice acquisitons by hospitals after a hiatus of some 10 years has caused some of us who were witnesses to the last cycle of acquisitions, which ended in the 1990s, to look at the historical lessons learned.
As anyone familiar with hospital admissions knows, orthopedics and cardiology are the two specialties that account for the largest share of hospital admissions. They also tend to be the most proftable as the plethora of for-profit surgical specialty hospitals would suggest. For those readers not familiar with this, http://www.merritthawkins.com/pdf/2007_Physician_Inpatient_Outpatient_Revenue_Survey.pdf contains the 2007 survey by physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins about revenue contribution by specialty. Thus, it is not surprising that the principal acquisition target of many hospitals is cardiolgy practices. Whether it be the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CCU), open heart surgery, blood chemistry lab, SPECT, ultrasound, cardiac CT or MR, cardiovascular admissions are the lifeblood of most hospitals.
My BLOG post http://cpanet.typepad.com/cpanet/2006/11/umdnj.html about this time 3 years ago was a result of stories in the trade press including Daily Dose about the Community Cardiology Program established at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey when its accreditation for cardiac surgery was threatened due to insufficient surgical volume. The link to the Monitor's Report in that post is no longer valid, the Report can now be found here http://www.umdnj.edu/ethweb/federalmonitor/index.htm. You can follow the links yourself to see what happened, but there were a number of fines and criminal guilty pleas. Also of some interest, as my original BLOG post noted, is the e-mail record that then US Attorney - and now Governor-elect of New Jersey - Chris Christie obtained.
I have long-advised my colleagues in writing, lectures and personally that as a healthcare appraiser you are not a lawyer, but you best have a sufficient understanding of tax exemption, Stark, the AKS, False Claims Act, antitrust and administrative sanctions to enable you to make a reasonable evaluation of the regulatory underpinnings of a proposed acquisition as well as to assess the representations of any legal counsel involved in the acquisition. And, if you feel your personal knowledge base is short, seek your own, independent, legal counsel.
Looking at my Post http://cpanet.typepad.com/cpanet/2009/12/shades-of-future-past-.html earlier this month, it seems that knowingly, or unknowingly, attempting an end run around the longstanding regulatory and, indeed, professional literature on when the replication cost approach is appropriate is not a particularly good idea, at least when it comes to cardiology practices.
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