Sunday, April 01, 2007

Fletcher Administration Should Answer This

Dr. Kevin T. Kavanagh goes after Fletcher health care policy:

In a recent campaign advertisement the Fletcher campaign advocated that they have "increased competition and lowered healthcare costs for Kentuckians." Well, at least he didn't claim to invent the internet.

When questioned by the Lexington Herald Leader Fletcher's campaign manager stated that it is easier for hospitals to expand, which will drive down health care costs. "Hospital construction will lead to lower health costs and more competition in the future."

However, new regulations enacted by the Fletcher Administration have made it virtually impossible for new acute care hospitals to enter into a market.

Apparently the Fletcher administration has adopted a health care policy which states that expansion of existing hospitals along with the prevention of others from entering the market will promote competition and in the future lower prices.

Granting virtual monopolies does not promote competition, this is Economics 101. And without a Public Service Commission to oversee hospital charges or even a Certificate of Need Citizen's Board to oversee the CON and healthcare expansion, there is little hope that these monopolies will lead to lower prices. After all, someone will have to pay for these new facilities and it will ultimately end up being the consumer.

The change in wording from "lowered health care costs" to "will lead to lower health costs" is an important one. It the difference between receiving a large check for you to deposit and being told the check is in the mail.

Allowing the massive expansion of existing facilities today may well have the effect of locking out future competitors for years to come, even if another Administration reverses these misguided regulations. What is done today can have the unattended effect of causing higher health care prices experienced by our children in the future.

If the Fletcher Administration is not careful, his legacy will be the turning over our health care to a few large corporations without the checks and balances of competition. Several urban and rural counties in Kentucky need an acute care hospital. Some do not have one and need access; others need competition for lower prices and to help promote quality.

We need to adopt a health care policy of "No County Left Behind" and take the Certificate of Need out of the hands of politicians.