Reconsidering the Affordable Care Act’s Restrictions on Physician-Owned Hospitals: Analysis of CMS Data on Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty

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Concerns about financial incentives and increased costs prompted legislation limiting the expansion of physician-owned hospitals in 2010. Supporters of physician-owned hospitals argue that they improve the value of care by improving quality and reducing costs. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether physician-owned and non-physician-owned hospitals differ in terms of costs, outcomes, and patient satisfaction in the setting of total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA).


With use of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Inpatient Charge Data, we identified 45 physician-owned and 2,657 non-physician-owned hospitals that performed ≥11 primary TKA and THA procedures in 2014. Cost data, patient-satisfaction scores, and risk-adjusted complication and 30-day readmission scores for knee and hip arthroplasty patients were obtained from the multiyear CMS Hospital Compare database.


Physician-owned hospitals received lower mean Medicare payments than did non-physician-owned hospitals for THA and TKA procedures ($11,106 compared with $12,699; p = 0.002). While the 30-day readmission score did not differ significantly between the 2 types of hospitals (4.48 compared with 4.62 for physician-owned and non-physician-owned, respectively; p = 0.104), physician-owned hospitals had a lower risk-adjusted complication score (2.83 compared with 3.04; p = 0.015). Physician-owned hospitals outperformed non-physician-owned hospitals in all patient-satisfaction categories, including mean linear scores for recommending the hospital (93.9 compared with 87.9; p < 0.001) and overall hospital rating (93.4 compared with 88.4; p < 0.001). When controlling for hospital demographic variables, status as a non-physician-owned hospital was an independent risk factor for being in the upper quartile of all inpatient payments for Medicare Severity-Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG) 470 (odds ratio, 3.317; 95% confidence interval, 1.174 to 9.371; p = 0.024), which may be because of a difference in CMS payment methodology.


Our findings suggest that physician-owned hospitals are associated with lower mean Medicare costs, fewer complications, and higher patient satisfaction following THA and TKA than non-physician-owned hospitals. Policymakers should consider these data when debating the current moratorium on physician-owned hospital expansion.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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