Christ Hospital enters into fight over certificate of need in Kentucky

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected].

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Christ Hospital has entered the conversation around certificate of need in Kentucky after it registered as a lobbyist with the Kentucky legislature, according to documents obtained by LINK nky from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. 

The Cincinnati-based hospital registered with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission in June, and under its registration filing, said it plans to lobby “certificate of need modernization initiatives.”

“The residents of Northern Kentucky have, for some time now, asked for more healthcare options in the communities where they work and live,” the hospital said in a statement.  “Citizens are using their voices and asking their legislators to hear them and to take action to provide them with more options for the healthcare care that they want and deserve.”

Christ’s entrance into the conversation comes as the Kentucky legislature continues to explore whether or not it might reform or repeal the certificate of need, which is a decades-old program that is required under Kentucky law for healthcare providers to open up a new facility, acquire major medical equipment, make substantial changes to a facility or project, or “Alter a geographical area or alter a specific location which has been designated on a certificate of need or license.”  

Christ fought with St. Elizabeth in 2018 over an ambulatory center in Fort Mitchell, but a Franklin County Circuit Court Judge blocked the hospital’s plans for a $23 million ambulatory surgery center at the old Drawbridge Inn site.  

Christ’s entry into the Northern Kentucky surgery market was opposed by St. Elizabeth Healthcare — the region’s dominant healthcare provider — which contended there was no need for an additional surgery center in the area.

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“Today was another setback for the patients and residents of Northern Kentucky,” said Vic DiPilla, the Christ Hospital Health Network’s vice president and chief business development officer, in a statement to The River City News, now LINK nky, at the time. “This morning, we received notice that our Certificate of Need (CON) application was denied by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. While disappointing, we remain committed to delivering on the desire of NKY residents to have more healthcare options. We will be assessing the current environment, and our commitment to serve NKY residents remains steadfast.”

The hospital eventually abandoned its plans for the site.

The conversation around certificate of need has heated up this year after two NKY legislators filed bills last session to reform the certificate of need, as some in the region say that St. Elizabeth holds a monopoly. The hospital argues they legally aren’t a monopoly but that they have been designated to have dominant healthcare status.   

The legislature created a special task force to study the issue of certificate of need during the 2023 interim legislative period, the time in between legislative sessions when legislators specific policy issues that might be addressed in the upcoming legislative session.  

The task force listened to testimony from groups in favor of keeping certificate of need earlier this month, including Nancy Galvagni, the president of the Kentucky Hospital Association. 

Then earlier this month, Americans for Prosperity, a national libertarian-leaning conservative group known for its connections to the Koch brothers and its “dark money” network, entered into the debate and said it plans to fight to repeal the program in Kentucky. 

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