Fort Wright’s city council showed nearly unilateral support for a bill that would create an exemption for the requirement of a certificate of need to open a healthcare facility in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties. This bill is an attempt to confront St. Elizabeth Hospital’s “dominant healthcare status.”
The council passed the resolution at a recent meeting stating that Kentucky House Bill 312 “would benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the residents of [the] City of Fort Wright.”
“I think that everyone understands here in Northern Kentucky, there is a large hospital organization. There hasn’t been competition on a large scale because of this certificate of need requirement,” Mayor Dave Hatter said to open the discussion.
Hatter explained that he feels that Fort Wright, in particular, should show its support for this bill because of Christ Hospital, which does not operate in affiliation with St. Elizabeth Hospital. Christ Hospital has gone up against the Certificate of Need rule before and lost.
“I feel this is warranted, personally,” Hatter said. Christ Hospital generates a considerable amount of tax revenue for the city of Fort Wright and Hatter sees a need to “support organizations that have chosen to operate in Fort Wright.”
The motion to support the bill carried, and the resolution passed with four positive votes from council.
Councilmember Bernie Wessels was absent from the meeting and councilmember Scott Wall abstained from voting. Wall said, “I am uncomfortable voting because the company that I work for does a lot of business with the existing large hospital company.”
Hatter confirmed to LINK nky that the “large hospital organization” he and the council members were referencing was indeed St. Elizabeth. He explained that they were choosing their words very carefully.
Hatter made it clear that the resolution does not represent any issue the city has with St. Elizabeth Hospital or its services but rather is an opposition to the Certificate of Need requirement itself.
To Hatter, it’s an issue of the free market.
“We don’t make any other business prove a need, so why do we do it with healthcare?” Hatter asks.
Hatter is not the only supporter of the bill to point out a lack of free market principles in the healthcare market in Northern Kentucky.
Janet Harrah, Senior Director of Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research, explains the logic behind that argument. “Those who want to see Certificate of Need (CON) laws repealed, believe that these laws artificially create monopolies for health care services by stifling competition. They believe that repeal of CON laws would create more competition and give more options to those seeking care.”
However, she also explains the counter argument and the concerns of those against the bill. “Those who support CON laws point to the significant amount of indigent care that large health care systems provide to communities in need. They fear that elimination of the CON laws would lead to new entrants into the market that would skim off the profitable services.”
No action has been taken on House Bill 312 since it was introduced on Feb. 15.