AAFP Moves to Protect Hospital-Employed Family Physicians

May 13, 2015 03:38 pm News Staff

The AAFP recently took steps to defend the rights of family physicians employed by hospitals.

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In a May 4 letter(1 page PDF) to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, AAFP Board Chair Reid Blackwelder, M.D., of Kingsford, Tenn., argued that physicians who choose careers as hospital-based physicians have a right to "due process" before being dismissed from an institution's medical staff.

"We believe physicians deserve fair hearings when threatened by termination from a hospital and that fear of retribution may limit or prevent physicians from fully advocating for their patients' best interests," said Blackwelder.

Furthermore, "Physicians with due process rights are more likely to protest fraudulent practices that threaten the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs," he added.

"Physicians have a duty to advocate for their patients, even when such advocacy requires opposition to a hospital's interests," said Blackwelder.

Story Highlights
  • The AAFP recently asked CMS to revises its "conditions of participation" document for Medicare-participating hospitals to disallow use of language that facilitates physician termination without a fair hearing.
  • AAFP Board Chair Reid Blackwelder, M.D., argued that physicians with due process rights were more likely to protest fraudulent activity that threatens the integrity of Medicare and Medicaid.
  • According to recent survey results, the number of primary care physicians employed by U.S. hospitals doubled from 10 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2014.

AAFP Urges CMS Action

The AAFP asked CMS to revise the "conditions of participation" document that Medicare-participating hospitals sign. Hospitals and physician staffing companies should be prohibited from including language in physician employment contracts that facilitates physician termination without a fair hearing, said Blackwelder.

Rather, CMS should promote policies that require fair hearings and appellate reviews for physicians "before any termination or restriction of their professional activity or medical staff privileges," said Blackwelder.

Furthermore, he added, it's imperative that CMS ensure that these due process rights cannot be waived by third-party contracts.

Hospital-Employed Physicians On the Rise

According to results of a national survey(www.jacksonhealthcare.com) by the industry staffing firm Jackson Healthcare, the number of primary care physicians employed by U.S. hospitals doubled from 10 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2014. The same survey noted that 21 percent of all U.S. physicians now are hospital employed.

The most recent AAFP survey data -- representing 55 percent of active members -- show that 6.7 percent of family physicians are employed by a university-owned hospital, 6.4 percent by a private for-profit hospital or health system, and 26.1 percent by a private nonprofit hospital or health system.

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