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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Specialty hospital? No special breaks

Telegraph Editorial

There are so many things wrong with the House-approved legislation granting favored-business status to “destination specialty hospitals” that it’s difficult to decide where to begin picking it apart.

Let’s start with its disingenuous premise that the sole motivation of its sponsors is to expand economic opportunity and create new jobs – about 500 jobs to get things started, if Cancer Treatment Centers of America comes through and builds a new facility in Salem as is frequently touted.

Wink, wink. Nod, nod. CTCA founder and Chairman Richard Stephenson serves on the board of directors of FreedomWorks, a conservative public policy lobbying group that is considered among the founding fathers of the tea party movement.

The legislation counts among its sponsors tea party fellow travelers House Speaker William O’Brien and House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt.

There’s a religious connection, too. O’Brien is a staunch defender of the Catholic Church, as evidenced by his ardent opposition to the Obama administration’s contraception policy and his call for the president to apologize to the church after the president apologized to Afghani Muslims for the inadvertent burning of copies of the Quran.

CTCA also has strong links to the Catholic Church and is known for linking religion with medicine.

It also should not be lost on the New Hampshire Senate that this legislation is patently unfair to existing acute-care facilities because these “specialty hospitals” would not be required to treat Medicaid patients – essentially giving them the ability to cherry pick customers, offering the highest return on investment.

This would increase the ratio of Medicaid patients served by existing hospitals, thus further eroding their bottom lines and jeopardizing their ability to provide other community-based services.

Senators should ask themselves this question: If this legislation is so good for the state’s economy, why is the Business and Industry Association against it?

David Juvet, BIA senior vice president, told the House Services and Elderly Affairs Committee that “HB 1642 sets a bad precedent. Carving out exceptions to entice a company into the state is not in the best interests of employers already here. By design, it creates an unlevel playing field and results in unfair competition for employers already in New Hampshire.”

In addition, this legislation would likely increase medical costs in New Hampshire, while failing to improve the quality of care.

A 2008 study by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice found that for the 90 million Americans with chronic illness, the intensity of their treatment depends less on what care patients need than on the availability of services.

The report concluded that “supply sensitive care being delivered in this country has at best no impact on the nation’s health. … Spending more is not resulting in more patients receiving effective care.”

The question that must be asked is: Does New Hampshire need this kind of facility?

But wait, the legislation exempts specialty care hospitals from state law requiring a Certificate of Need.

How convenient.