Valley hospital influences health care debate

NY Times:

One of the largest sources of campaign contributions to Senate Democrats during this year’s health care debate is a physician-owned hospital in one of the country’s poorest regions that has sought to soften measures that could choke its rapid growth.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee collected nearly $500,000 at a reception here on March 30, mostly from physicians and others affiliated with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, financial disclosure records show.

The event was held at the home of a prominent McAllen developer, Alonzo Cantu, a hospital founder, investor and board member who has raised prodigious sums from the Rio Grande Valley for an array of Democrats.

Another event at Mr. Cantu’s home, in September 2007, brought in at least $800,000 for the committee’s House counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to disclosure reports. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was in attendance and cut a ribbon at the hospital’s new women’s center while in town.

The hospital, which is in Edinburg, adjacent to McAllen, is working both sides of the aisle. Its political action committee, Border Health PAC, split $120,000 last year among House and Senate candidates, including Republicans.

Although Congressional negotiations over health care legislation are continuing, Doctors Hospital seems to be getting much of what it wants. Thus far, physician-owned hospitals have been insulated from some of the most onerous potential restrictions in the health care legislation moving through Congress.


The gleaming, well-equipped Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, which has expanded to 503 beds from 30 in six years, has become a footnote in the health care debate. It was featured unflatteringly in a June article in The New Yorker about geographic disparities in health care spending, a story that President Obama has cited repeatedly in speeches and meetings.

The article, which is sharply disputed by hospital officials, posited that physician ownership provided “an unholy temptation to overorder” tests and procedures because doctors earn not only their fees but also a share of the hospital’s profits. At Doctors Hospital, where 353 of its 452 owners are physicians, net revenue amounted to $64 million in 2008.

The disparities between the cost of operation at this hospital seems stark enough to suggest an audit is in order. I suspect that is unlikely given their political activities. If my math is correct the working of both sides has netted Republicans roughly $60,000 in contributions while Democrats have received $1,360,000. Yeah, I think they are supporting Democrats and expect to have their back covered on any "reform" legislation.


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