LANSING — Legislation pending in Lansing would eliminate local reviews for health care projects that fall under state certificate-of-need rules.
A bill passed today by the Senate Economic Development Committee without discussion includes language that eliminates local reviews of CON projects, a role now held only by the Alliance for Health in Grand Rapids.
The legislation seeks “to disenfranchise the people of West Michigan after 40 years of involvement and partnership with the state. This is disconcerting and we hope that you can help to prevent this from happening,” Alliance for Health President Lody Zwarensteyn wrote in an email this morning to members.
The Alliance for Health’s Evaluation Board, consisting of volunteer representatives from the private and public sector, reviews projects within a 12-county service area of West Michigan that require CON approval. The Evaluation Board issues a recommendation to the Michigan Department of Community Health, which has final say on applications.
The Alliance for Heath typically endorses projects, as long as they meet CON standards.
The idea behind local reviews is to get people who have an interest in a project a voice in the process, Zwarensteyn said.
“The concept is that decisions are going to be made by bureaucrats and those decisions should be made with the opinion of people who have to live with them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean those making the decisions have to agree, but they should at least have to listen.”
Zwarensteyn said his only recourse now is to get the word out about the potential for the health care planning agency to lose its CON advisory role. He otherwise does not plan to rally forces against the bill.
“I’m simply going let people know what’s going on and let the chips fall where they will,” Zwarensteyn said. “I’ll let people know and if they want to fight it, great. If not, well…”
The legislation that passed committee today originally sought to allow Flint-based McLaren Heath Care Corp. to relocate 200 beds from Pontiac to a new hospital proposed in northern Oakland County that the Department of Community Health previously rejected. A substitute bill that was introduced and passed today had language stripped out of it, a move sources say was intended to get it out of committee and to the Senate floor, when they expect amendments to arise that restore the McLaren provisions.
When the bill was first introduced two weeks ago, it drew opposition from within the health care industry as an end run around the CON process that’s designed to benefit a single care provider and will encourage others to do the same.
Roger Spoelman, the CEO of Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon who oversees Trinity Health’s West Michigan operations, said in prepared remarks that he was to give Economic Development Committee this morning that the bill would “open floodgates” for more end runs.
“Should the Legislature … supercede the regulatory CON process that is established, it will send a message to all providers that with the right political support, anyone can circumvent the process,” read Spoelman’s remarks.
The committee, however, did not take comment today and passed the substitute bill on a 4-1 vote, minus the language intended for McLaren.