The old joke about martinis is that one's not enough and two's too many (and three's just right). When it comes to ASC industry groups, we say that two's still too many, but that one is plenty, thank you.
While we're sad on some levels to see the American Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers go away there was something special about AAASC's homegrown feel, its scrappy spirit and the many wonderful in-the-trenches speakers at its annual meetings we're happy to see AAASC and FASA finally merge. Many of our readers are, too (see "Facility Managers Applaud the Creation of ASCA" on page 14), as well as, we imagine, the vendors that no longer have to exhibit at two look-alike meetings that hit a month apart.
If nothing else, we will now have one voice, loud and clear, not having to drown each other out, speaking on freestanding facilities' behalf. At times, having two premier organizations for ASCs was like having two fingers pointing the industry in slightly different directions. Even though AAASC was about five times smaller than FASA, the fiercely independent physician-led group refused to take a back seat. Quite admirable, but two groups pushing their own agendas with their own lobbyists sent mixed messages to policy makers.
For example, FASA and AAASC each lobbied long and hard with somewhat mixed results, it should be noted to Medicare officials about the new ASC payment system. FASA drove home the message that ASCs are cheaper than hospitals. AAASC argued that ASCs should be treated as hospitals. "We're all in the same songbook, singing from the same score," said AAASC Executive Director Craig Jeffries at the time. True enough, but is there an echo in here?
Another example of ham-handedness: About a year ago, AAASC released findings of a survey, based on 90 responses, that found that 47 percent of ASCs are entirely physician-owned and that 32 percent have some form of hospital ownership. FASA pointed to its survey, where, ahem, 1,189 responses indicated 21.6 percent of responding ASCs were at least partially owned by hospitals.
On Jan. 1, when the AAASC-FASA merger becomes official, there will be a peppy new name (Ambulatory Surgery Center Association [ASCA]), a single person running the show (CEO Kathy Bryant) and a single conference (May 14-17 at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter). As many have said, successful mergers are not made on paper. They get executed in real life. It is our hope that the benefits of any efficiencies and synergies go to the members and that ASCA supports and strengthens the good thing the ASC industry has going for itself with one voice and a loud one at that.