Jupiter Medical Center isn’t keeping quiet as state lawmakers once again mull over eliminating the requirement for hospitals to show a community need before building new facilities or expanding specialties.
The hospital recently published “an open letter to the community” in The Palm Beach Post and other media outlets directly addressing some Republican lawmakers plans to replace the Certificate of Need program — a plan seconded by the governor.
“They believe by deregulating health care, costs would be reduced and quality would be improved. We disagree,” the letter states and it is signed by Jupiter Medical’s President and CEO John Couris and the hospital’s board members.
Couris told The Post he that he is not against the free market but that more competition doesn’t necessarily mean better or less expensive care when it comes to medicine.
“We are not widget makers in the health care industry,” he said. “We are not flipping hamburgers, we are not selling pizza. We are taking care of the most important single asset of this state and that is its people.”
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia currently limit entry or expansion of health care facilities through certificate-of-need programs. In Florida, this process extends to acute hospital beds to organ transplants to psychiatric services. The state must find the community needs another pediatric heart surgery program.
The reason is simple: practice makes perfect. The more a hospital performs brain surgery, the better it gets at it. If a competitor opens up an outfit down the street offering the same service, then that expertise can take a hit.
“Do you want to go to a hospital that does very sophisticated brain surgery and does it 100 times a year or do you want to go to a hospital that does it 10 times a year?” Couris said.
SB 676 aims to remove the CON restriction for hospitals looking to improve or expand a public facility. Gov. Rick Scott and House leader, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, support the bill making its way through the committee stage presently.
Couris said hospitals are competing plenty right now on heart surgery and maternity care where patient numbers are not an issue to establish proficiency.
“South Florida is a hyper-competitive environment,” he said. “We compete all the time, but as a leader in health care, I have an obligation greater than just competing. I have an obligation to care for the health and wellness of this community.”
Despite the competition, hospitals really aren’t operating in the free market, Couris said. They can’t if they are to heal the sick and tend to the injured.
For instance, hospitals are required to treat someone who comes into the emergency room whether he or she can pay or not. In a free market system, those patients would be sent packing.
Couris’ also stated that prices won’t go down if the certificate of need provision vanishes. Hospitals that would move into the market will be the big chains – chains that have leverage over insurance companies and can demand higher prices.
Jupiter Medical Center is advocating a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach when it comes to requiring a certificate of need for hospitals to expand.
Couris encouraged readers of the letter published to call state representatives to express concerns with keeping a “well-balanced health care system.[“Source-palmbeachhealthbeat”]