Hiring physicians directly

Hunt Regional President and CEO Richard Carter says hospitals can’t directly hire physicians. Instead, a 501(a), a separate non-profit organization hires physicians.

In an effort to make providing benefits to physicians more affordable for Hunt Regional Healthcare, officials with the hospital recently worked with State Rep. Dan Flynn and State Senator Bob Hall to seek an exception from the Texas Legislature that would allow the healthcare provider to directly hire physicians instead of through a third party non-profit.

“Currently, throughout Texas, hospitals can’t directly hire physicians … instead, a 501(a), a separate non-profit organization hires physicians” explained Hunt Regional President and CEO Richard Carter. “We’re asking the legislature for an exception, so we can pool our staff together and offer benefits that have a better economy of scale.

“We currently have about 1,200 employees (non physicians) and 10 physicians, so offering benefits to just that small staff of 10 isn’t as cost effective as being able to hire them directly and add them to our overall staff,” Carter added.

The third party, non-profit through which physicians with Hunt Regional are currently hired is Hunt Regional Medical Partners. The reason why the default state law requires physicians to be hired by a third party is because the Texas Medical Association has long been concerned that if hospitals directly hire physicians, then it my interfere with the doctor’s ability to “exercise their independent medical judgement, and protect the patient-physician relationship.”

For this reason, Texas House Bill 1227/Texas Senate Bill 1236 has written into its language, “The board (of directors) shall … adopt, maintain, and enforce policies to ensure that a physician employed by the district exercises the physician’s independent medical judgment in providing care to patients at healthcare facilities owned or operated by the (hospital) district.”

“I worked with Hunt Regional Healthcare representatives and filed this bill to give the hospital the ability to more competitively recruit and retain physicians by reducing costly benefits,” Rep. Flynn said.

“More and more physicians are seeking employment opportunities outside of independent practice, and as the only hospital in Hunt County, Hunt Regional Healthcare must be positioned to maintain an effective physician staff.”

Administration at Hunt Regional also made the decision to seek the exception to better achieve economic efficiency as the Greenville/Hunt County area grows.

“We have grown and we expect to continue to grow, but we want to be able to be as effective and efficient as possible in our benefit management … and in turn help us with savings on cost for our patients,” Carter said.

To read the bill, click on the following link: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/html/HB01227I.htm

Travis Hairgrove is a news reporter and features writer at the Herald-Banner and covers city government for many municipalities in Hunt County. To reach him outside of business hours, email THairgroveReporter@gmail.com.