No edge for McLaren on hospital

Bret Jackson

It is easy to take risks when you are using someone else’s money. The cost of building and running hospitals is paid by you and me through our health insurance premiums and tax dollars. In states where regulations do not exist to control facility growth, hospitals have been built exclusively in upper-income areas and the costs for payers, including insurance companies and employers, have gone up.

In Michigan, we have the necessary measures in place to control the growth of unneeded and redundant health care facilities and services. However, McLaren Health Care is seeking to get a special exemption through the Legislature to build a hospital in Clarkston.

Senate Bill 1073 could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as Wednesday.

McLaren should not be allowed to be given a competitive advantage over existing hospitals in the area.

McLaren doesn’t want to play by the same rules that every other health system in this state is subject to. The rules, called Certificate of Need, help protect patients by demanding quality, ensuring access to needed services, and minimizing duplication of costs.

It is called Certificate of Need because there must be a demonstrable need for a facility for the state to grant the project. Currently in Oakland County there are eight hospitals within a 30-minute drive of the proposed Clarkston site. On an average day those eight hospitals are 40 percent empty. There is no need for a ninth hospital in an area with that much empty capacity.

Hospital occupancy has been declining for over 35 years in Michigan, including a 4 percent drop in just the last five years. The trend in health care is to try to keep people out of costly overnight hospital visits. It’s no different in Clarkston, where inpatient discharges have declined in each of the last five fiscal quarters.

McLaren’s appeal of the state’s CON decision is pending before the Michigan Supreme Court, and many expect the state’s denial to be upheld. Undeterred, McLaren has focused substantial efforts on influencing state politicians to change the rules of the game in their favor.

Opposition to the McLaren special exception comes from Friends of Certificate of Need, representing over 90 organizations in the state including the Detroit three automakers, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Small Business Association of Michigan and health systems like Beaumont, St. John Providence and the Detroit Medical Center. These organizations believe Certificate of Need saves consumers from paying the higher health care costs that we see in neighboring Ohio and Indiana.

Health care costs are hurting job creation and slowing economic growth in this country. Out-of-pocket health care expenses are making families choose between putting food on the table and buying the medicines they need. Certificate of Need has long prevented this problem from becoming much worse.

Lawmakers should be looking for ways to lower the cost of health care, not finding new ways to spend our money. They should vote no on Senate Bill 1073.

Bret Jackson, president,

Economic Alliance for Michigan, a member of Friends of Certificate of Need