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OP/ED: Hospital Plan Good for NH

HB1642 would allow Cancer Treatment Centers of America and other specialty health centers to operate here.

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.)

ForThePeople February 22, 2012 at 12:06 AM
I don't agree with Don on a great many things, nor do I consider myself aligned with him on some political issues, but on this I have some of the same questions. I think those need to be answered before we rush into something. If it's all perfectly fine and nonthreatening to the poor, what's the harm in answering the questions, Republicans?
kathleen oconnell February 23, 2012 at 03:54 AM
I would like to make a late entry to one of the comments Mr. Duston made. I am a stakeholder (a.k.a. an employee) of CTCA. You stated that CTCA does not accept Medicare patients, but you are misinformed. Medicare patients are accepted. The only limitations that face Medicare patients are imposed by Medicare itself not by CTCA. The limitations I am referring to are the reimbursements for travel and for food and lodging that are extended to other patients. Medicare does not allow CTCA to reimburse the cost of travel/lodging, nor offer free meals, thereby causing any Medicare patient who wants to seek treatment with us to pay out of pocket for all those items themself. CTCA offers free meals to patients and their caregivers, they offer lodging at drastically reduced room rates, cover patients and caregivers travel expenses and make all the arrangements for them. That is the reason why some Medicare patients are unable to continue treating with us - because they cannot afford the out of pocket expenses. CTCA goes over and above to assist any patient who walks through their doors in any way possible. It really upset me that your opinions were being posted that were not true. Our financial advocates investigate all avenues of assistance to help navigate the process for any patient that needs it. We have a dedicated Appeals Department that will advocate for our patients. Most important, we provide cutting edge technology but especially a culture of hope for patients.
kathleen oconnell February 23, 2012 at 04:44 AM
My family and I have vacationed in New Hampshire. It is a little spot of heaven on earth! I feel like I'm going through a detoxification process being up there, breathing in the air, swimming in the waters. We have friends and family in the New England area. I was jumping out of my seat when a colleague told me about the possibility of New Hampshire being the next site. Until you know more of the facts about the philosophy, and the generosity of CTCA, please keep an open mind and learn more about us. Yes, we have the most cutting edge technology, but high tech hospitals can be cold and dismissive to patients sometimes. Our hospitals have revitalized their surrounding communities but most importantly, because of our "Mother Standard" we provide a culture of hope, respect and support. That is what truly inspires our patients and the stakeholders that work for this truly unique organization.
Don Duston February 23, 2012 at 08:33 PM
@Kathleen, I have NEVER said CTCA does not provide good care. CTCA may "take" Medicare patients as long as they pay the difference out of pocket for what is not covered. My point is that CTCA does NOT provide any free care and that by not providing free care they will take away a large chunk of community hospital customers with commercial insurance, thereby leaving the community hospital's with a larger burden to cover the free care pool. Community hospitals do get some government assistance for free care but it covers only a fraction of the actual costs. CTCA will erode the commercial payer base In NH, MA, ME and VT and it will create an elitist level of health care in the region. However, I AM a supporter of free enterprise and I do not think CTCA should be restricted from doing business in NH. That being said, they should also play by the same set of rules as all the community hospitals, CTCA should not be afford special privileges to circumvent the current Certificate of Need regulations. As you said yourself, CTCA IS A HOSPITAL, so if they do not like the regulation, then they should work to change it. In their defense, CTCA has not asked for this special treatment, it was one of our State Reps that has taken it upon herself to change the rules for them with the pretense that it will somehow create jobs. I don't think our State Rep has done her homework on the impact CTCA will have on the entire NH health care system. In the end, there will be a minimal job gain.
Stephanie February 24, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The Cancer Centers Of America do not offer anything different for treating cancer. They only offer false hope. They lie!!! look at their commercials!!! they make u think they can help you when no one else can. ITS A LIE!!! They prey on the hopeless, people that have been given devastating news... because they are going to make millions of dollars off of you. Because you are going to die in there care. They can not treat cancer any different than any other hospital. What do they offer that is different??? They offer what everyone else does...chemo and radiation. Just because they have yoga classes??? and stupid stuff like that....nothing that actually fights cancer.... Garcia...i pray that this does not come to NH. They told us lie after lie when my mother was a patient there in Philly. It is an awful place!! and the employees know it as well.. It is a big hidden secret that they are a hoax....

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