Senate panel OKs criteria to license surgery centers

March 23, 1995|By a Sun Staff Writer

The state Senate and House of Delegates are approaching agreement on legislation governing the more than 80 outpatient surgery centers that have sprung up in Maryland in competition with hospitals.

The Senate Finance Committee narrowly approved yesterday a bill that establishes licensing criteria for these centers. But on a 6-to-5 vote the committee rejected controversial proposals to require surgery centers to pay for charity care and graduate medical education.

The committee's bill, which now moves to the full Senate, is in line with legislation favored by a House panel.

The bills authorize studies this year of the proposals to charge surgery centers for charity care and graduate medical education.

The state's hospital rate-setting system requires hospitals to pay the cost of providing free care to the poor and helping to train young doctors. Hospitals are reimbursed through the rates they charge paying patients and insurance companies, which is one reason hospital rates are higher than those of surgery centers.

Hospitals strongly supported these proposals, saying they would help balance the competition with surgery centers for patients. Insurance companies, which opposed the proposals, send patients to surgery centers because they're generally less expensive.

The Finance Committee also killed a provision that would require surgery centers to charge all patients and insurers the same rate for each procedure. Hospitals sought this provision because the rate-setting system requires uniform pricing, but the surgery centers want flexibility that enables them to negotiate different rates with different insurers.

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