By Rep. Marilinda Garcia
I'd like to clarify some facts about House Bill 1642. Unfortunately, as is often the case in issues such as these, there is a lot of misinformation being bandied about. So let's be clear: The goal of HB 1642 is to make the business climate here in New Hampshire more attractive for destination specialty hospitals and clinics. Locating these centers in our state will help develop the economy, create jobs and make our great state of New Hampshire a magnet for those seeking high-quality, specialized health care.
In the past couple of years I have come to know and respect one such specialty hospital, Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I have toured a CTCA hospital and found the care to be unique. I believe it would add to the excellent hospital community we have here in New Hampshire.
I have asked CTCA to consider New Hampshire as a potential location for its next hospital. CTCA did not ask for any special handouts, nor has it made a specific decision to locate in New Hampshire. I believed it was my duty as an elected official to facilitate regulatory change that would encourage specialty centers, like CTCA, but not strictly for CTCA, to consider New Hampshire as a viable option.
HB 1642 has a number of key provisions that not only lift burdensome regulations but also add a requirement that 65 percent of patients come from out of state. This would allow destination specialty treatment centers to be exempt from the certificate-of-need process. The current certificate-of-need law was designed to restrain the overbuilding of health-care facilities for acute care provided to local residents.
However, entrenched interests use these laws as barriers to keep competition out, which is why they zealously guard them. Specialty treatment centers providing a specific service do not meet the requirements mandated under the certificate-of-need law; therefore it would be unnecessary and self-defeating for them to apply for it in the first place. Additionally, the certificate-of-need law is narrowly focused on the interests of New Hampshire consumers - it does not encompass or consider the entire Northeast region, never mind the national and international market. If we want to attract high-end, specialty-care facilities that consistently have approximately 70 percent of their customer base drawn from patients from outside the state in which they are located, we need to broaden the myopic certificate-of-need process that is an obstacle to the development of the New Hampshire health-care sector. New Hampshire needs a new designation for a unique class of hospitals.
Again, this is not about just CTCA or cancer services - why not broaden the spectrum to allow specialty centers such as orthopedics, nephrology and pulmonology, spinal injury, sports medicine, etc, to be welcomed into our state? Many other states have lifted the certificate-of-need process and have seen their health-care markets flourish, not wither. If we look to other industries, an infusion of competition has led to better outcomes, more transparency and better value for the customer. Why should we not do this with health care?
As I see it, we are in competition with other states and in need of a vision for the long-term economic development of New Hampshire. We are fortunate to be in an ideal geographic location that boasts copious amounts of intellectual capital. If you are paying attention to the devastating unemployment rates and the lack of job creation, you understand that this economy warrants action. I think the innovation economy and health-care sector are where it should happen.
This requires a larger, more broad-based conversation, which the Legislature should host among our citizens. Do we want to be viewed as a state that is pro-business and welcoming to businesses looking to locate in our backyards - or not? New Hampshire should be a destination state for those seeking specialty health care, while also increasing high quality treatment options for our citizens.
(Republican Rep. Marilinda Garcia of Salem is a member of the House Finance Committee.)