5 Observations on the Future of ASCs by Dr. Neal Lintecum of Kansas' Lawrence Surgery Center

Neal Lintecum, MD, an orthopedic hand surgeon, is chairman of the board of Lawrence (Kan.) Surgery Center. It has four ORs, about 18 physician-partners and hosts surgery in orthopedics, ENT, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, podiatry and urology. Dr. Lintecum makes the following observations about the future of ASCs.

1. Recession may help ASCs. No one would wish this sort of recession on anyone, but there is one positive outcome for ASCs. More and more people have to pay for care out of their own pockets. As household budgets tighten, "they are realizing that surgery in ASCs costs a lot less than in the hospital," Dr. Lintecum says.

2. Reform doesn't favor ASCs. "The premise behind healthcare reform is 'bigger is better,' " Dr. Lintecum says. He says this is based on the misconception that larger systems can produce savings, but ASCs have proven the opposite. Smaller, more agile entities are what produce savings.

3. Costs are out of hand. "I worry that nothing has been done to bend the cost curve," Dr. Lintecum says. "It is a laudable goal to provide insurance to people who don't have it, but what about the rest of the people in the country who are seeing their premiums skyrocket?"

4. Lack of tort reform. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius previously was Kansas' governor and insurance commissioner. Her last job before leaving the private sector was with the trial lawyers. As HHS starts tort reform pilot projects, Ms. Sibelius will probably side with the trial attorneys and be "the fox in the chicken coop."

5. Uncertain future of Medicare. It is not clear how Medicare can survive without cutting payments. The Medicare trust fund is running out of money and the government is running a deficit.

Read more insight from ASC physicians:

- ASCs' Role in Accountable Care Organizations: Q&A with Dr. John Henley of Fayetteville ASC

- 8 Secrets to Success from Michigan's Great Lakes Surgical Center

- 3 Ideas for Motivating Staff With Dr. William Lahners

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