Vermont bill could levy 6% provider tax on ASCs, threatening its 2nd center: 5 things to know

A state representative in Vermont introduced a bill to regulate ASCs to the Vermont House eight months after the state granted its second certificate of need to a surgery center, according to the Burlington Free Press.

 

The Green Mountain Care Board issued the CON to physicians last July to open Green Mountain Surgery Center in Colchester, Vt., which would be the state's second ASC; South Burlington-based New England Vision/Vermont Eye Laser has operated as the state's only ASC for more than a decade. The physician owners of Green Mountain Surgery Center spent two years attending hearings before the CON was granted; the physicians faced opposition from local hospitals and the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Here are five things to know:

1. The bill would place several additional expenses on ASCs, including a $2,000 annual licensing fee and 6 percent provider tax that would be based on net patient revenue. The bill also outlines a plan for ASCs to cover 5 percent of the cost for the Green Mountain Care Board to analyze their expenditures and review budgets, and cover 7.5 percent of regulatory expenses from the Office of the Health Care Advocate.

2. If passed, the bill would make it difficult for Green Mountain Surgery Center to move forward with their plans. The 6 percent provider tax is estimated to cost $420,000 and all together the additional expenses would reach around $678,000.

3. While Vermont hospitals also pay a provider tax, they receive a portion of the tax back from Medicare; the current bill does not stipulate ASCs would also benefit from the partial refund. Green Mountain Surgery Center reported it would accept Medicare and Medicaid patients as well as offer charity care.

4. The Green Mountain Care Board chairman didn't take a position on the bill, despite issuing the CON last year. Eight other states impose provider taxes on ASCs, between 1 percent and exceeding 9 percent.

5. The ASC's supporters hope the center will be able to provide a high-quality, low-cost care setting for patients. Anticipated prices for colonoscopies at the planned center would cost less than half the price of colonoscopies at Burlington, Vt.-based UVM Medical Center.

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