WALTHAM — The Mass. Medical Society (MMS) and the Mass. Assoc. of Ambulatory Surgery Centers (MAASC) applauded new regulations for ambulatory-surgery centers (ASCs) approved by the state Public Health Council that will promote greater patient access to high-quality care and provide opportunities for lower-cost surgical care.
The new regulations eliminate a 20-year moratorium on free-standing ambulatory-surgery centers in the state and will allow all currently licensed ASCs to apply for a determination-of-need (DON) certificate without affiliation or in a joint venture with an acute-care hospital. The affiliation/joint-venture provision was a requirement of the previously proposed regulations. The DON program, operated and overseen by the Department of Public Health, is designed to ensure that capital healthcare projects are commensurate with the healthcare needs in a given geographic area.
“We applaud Gov. [Charlie] Baker; Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders; Dr. Monica Bharel, commissioner of Public Health; and members of the Public Health Council for their thoughtful and careful consideration in establishing these new regulations,” said MMS President Dr. James Gessner and MAASC President Gregory DeConciliis in a joint statement. “They have responded to many concerns of the physician community in approving these new rules. Patients will gain greater access to care, and providers will benefit from a level playing field for free-standing ambulatory-surgery centers and be better able to meet the needs of patients.”
Both the MMS and MAASC provided extensive comments in September on the proposed regulations. The groups expressed strong concern about the provision that would allow new centers only if they were affiliated with, or in a joint venture with, an acute-care hospital. Saying the provision would hinder patient access and contribute to higher healthcare costs, the groups urged state officials to reconsider, and the proposal was eliminated from the final regulations.
Ambulatory-surgery centers are independent providers that include multi-specialty, single-specialty, and laser-surgery centers across the state. Association members provide care to 300,000 patients in the Commonwealth annually. All centers are certified by Medicare and either the Accreditation Assoc. for Ambulatory Health Care or the Joint Commission, the latter two being independent organizations that develop standards for patient safety and quality care and certify healthcare organizations and programs throughout the U.S.