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Sunday, September 7, 2003

Open up debate


Boutique hospitals: Proposed freeze

Ohio full-service hospitals have been pushing HB 71 to halt what they say is a proliferation of specialty hospitals cherry-picking the most profitable patients. Community hospitals say their survival is at risk. Hospitals and doctors groups deadlocked this week in Columbus over proposed compromises, and some lawmakers think the contentious bill is doomed.

Legislators ought to open up the debate to other options such as mandating all hospitals to accept a percentage of uninsured or even licensing Ohio hospitals.

Full-service Ohio hospitals want the freeze, yet still want to retain their power to cancel hospital privileges of any doctors invested in a for-profit specialty hospital. How's that for control?

Some lawmakers are skeptical of the hospitals, since in the mid-1990s they lobbied to do away with "certificates of need," freeing hospitals from having to show they weren't duplicating programs in an oversaturated market. Now the same hospitals want to re-impose controls, not on themselves, but on doctor-owned hospitals.

The doctors say they welcome full disclosure of investors. General hospital officials say for-profit hospitals will refuse poor, uninsured patients. Ohio Heart Health officials, for one, insist they will take all comers at their proposed new Cincinnati cardiac center (see above), and even urge legislators, if they're concerned, to mandate a number of indigent cases for all Ohio hospitals. Even if the HB 71 freeze were enacted, Ohio Heart's new hospital would be grandfathered under the current version, because the cardiology group already filed its "notice of intent" on Aug. 22.

Rep. Michelle Schneider, R-Madeira, who sits on the House Health Committee, says, "Ohio is the only state in the union that doesn't license hospitals. Let's license hospitals." Licensing not only would authorize the Department of Health to make annual surprise inspections, as it does for other health care facilities, but allow the state to write standards.

Ohio lawmakers should not pass a bill that would stifle healthy competition and medical innovation.




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