2017-03-23 / Healthy Living

Your care, your voice


COURTESY PHOTO COURTESY PHOTO As head of Jupiter Medical Center, my passion and primary responsibility is caring for your health and wellness, and I want to continue doing that for years to come. However, this legislative session, a group of lawmakers is working to eliminate an important health care planning process called the Certificate of Need (CON) program. They believe by doing away with CON and deregulating health care, costs would be reduced and quality would be improved. I disagree.

While I believe our legislators want to do the right thing, eliminating this program is not good for our community. CON is a vital program that requires health care providers to obtain state approval before offering services in Florida. Ending CON and deregulating health care could likely trigger a chain reaction that reduces quality, increases costs and makes it harder for community members to obtain necessary services.

As a community hospital, Jupiter Medical Center invests in many services that are unprofitable because they are essential to the health and wellbeing of our neighbors. This includes services like obstetrics, diabetes care and our free clinic that serves those who cannot afford medical treatment. CON helps ensure that we can continue to provide these vital services regardless of their profitability. Health care in our community would dramatically change in a world without CON.

Without CON in place, hospitals like ours could no longer afford to offer many of these services. In a CON-free Florida, boutique health care businesses could move in, offering only profitable services, instead of balancing these with vital community services. For patients in Palm Beach County, this would mean gaps in essential programs.

It is a well-documented fact that the more times a hospital performs a certain procedure, the better the outcome. In a community without CON, hospitals could offer a very complex service even if they are only performing the procedure a handful of times. Would you rather have neurosurgery in a hospital that performs 100 of these sophisticated procedures a year… or four? If we add more hospitals to the mix, we are simply taking the volume and spreading it across even more providers.

Eliminating CON is being touted as a way to create healthier competition and drive down costs — but actually, the opposite is likely to happen. We compete against other hospitals every day, and that’s a good thing. But providing health care is not the same as selling widgets. Bring more widget sellers into a market and sure, prices will go down. But let more health providers come into a market without any oversight or planning to determine the need for more services, and costs will rise.

The CON system is working. It’s an effective tool to protect quality and make sure providers respond to your health care needs. Under these proposed new state bills, your voice would be taken away.

If you’re concerned about the consequences of eliminating CON, I encourage you to reach out to your legislators and let them know. Just visit www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find to find your representatives. The bills to eliminate CON are Senate Bill 676 and House Bill 7.

Please feel free to contact me directly at jcouris@jupitermed.com to share your concerns. You also can read more on my blog Inventinghealth.blogspot.com or by connecting with me on LinkedIn (LinkedIn/jcouris).

With Congress currently debating massive changes to our U.S. health care system, now is not the time for Florida to make wholesale changes to our state regulatory structure. Join me and make your voice heard on this harmful legislation that could critically impact you, your family and our community. ¦

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