Governor Branstad’s goal to open up more competition in the health care industry ran into some serious trouble at the statehouse Wednesday.
A bill to clear the way for more for-profit health care facilities failed to clear a Republican-dominated panel.
The governor wanted to do away with the state’s Certificate of Need program that requires new health care facilities to prove there’s a need for their services.
Rep. Rob Taylor (R-West Des Moines) has sponsored a bill that doesn’t go that far, but it does remove roadblocks that currently stand in the way of physician-owned facilities such as free-standing surgical centers or medical imaging clinics.
Hospital executives say if the bill is passed, they would lose income from those profitable services that helps pay the bills for full-service 24-7 medical care.
“As a limited government free enterprise guy that angers me,” Taylor told a group of more than three dozen hospital executives and lobbyists. “You’re holding the entrepreneurial physicians and clinics hostage in not being able to expand their clinics.”
“This bill is simply to put us on an equal playing field in the market for health care because we do not have that right now,” said Karla Foltz McHenry with the Iowa Independent Physicians Group. “We always feel like the stepchild to the hospitals.”
Hospital executives were on hand from communities across the state, including Perry, Grinnell, Mount Pleasant, and Council Bluffs.
They urged the bill’s defeat.
“I’m a Republican just like you so why am I opposed to this bill?” said Doug Cropper, president of Genesis Health systems in an exchange with Rep. Taylor.
“Health care is different,” Cropper said. “The free market doesn’t work with safety-net services.”
Executives said in addition to patients, the hospitals lose medical staff to the competing clinics.
The bill failed to advance when a Republican on the three-member panel said rural hospitals in his district don’t support it.
“There’s no more of a free market guy maybe in the world than me,” said Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison). “But you’re not operating in a free market.”
“We heard testimony today that stated that medicine is not a free enterprise system,” said Rep. Taylor, “which I think is unfortunate.”
A representative of the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity argued for the bill.
“In every other area of the economy, choice and competition help drive down cost,” said lobbyist Drew Klein.