Governor's Health Action Team Completes Initial Tasks, Tackles Certificate of Need
Governor Baldacci's Health Action Team met on Friday, March 28th for the last time to receive committee reports and consider further elements in the Governor's health agenda. The HAT's subcommittee's are:
- Benefits Package;
- Cross-cutting Issues;
- Low Income Access and Financing;
- Public Purchasing;
- Quality and Accountability; and
- Cost Containment
Much of the recent discussion has focused on health planning and the current Certificate of Need program. Members of the HAT Subcommittee on Cost Containment, Planning and Regulation, chaired by the MMA's HAT representative, Maroulla Gleaton, M.D., have expressed concern that the existing CON program is relatively ineffective in controlling the diffusion of technology and the proliferation of capital expenditures. The Subcommittee has recommended strengthening the CON program and relocating the decision-making to an independent organization, rather than the DHS Commissioner.
Of particular concern to the Maine Medical Association is a Subcommittee recommendation that a new CON program apply to investments outside the hospital setting, including a physician's office. While it is too early to know exactly how such a proposal would work, MMA has expressed strong opposition to expanding CON to encompass facilities and equipment in a physician's office that has always been exempt.
Including such facilities under CON, thereby allowing hospitals to oppose and potentially prohibit such facilities competing with hospitals, will further expand hospital monopolies and restrict choices that patients want and should have available. Competition might also lower cost and price.
While the hospital industry argues for a "level playing field," MMA believes that a regulatory environment in which physicians are expected to match hospital resources in the planning, legal and charity area is a gross mismatch in terms of resources. The CON track record has not been a positive one for physicians when hospitals have opposed the granting of a CON to a physician. MMA will keep members posted on developments in this important area.
The MMA and other observers have been amazed and somewhat alarmed at the pace of the HAT process that may result in major changes to the State's health care system. There's still insufficient detail abou the Governor's plan to determine an appropriate position for the MMA. We anxiously await OHPF Director Trish Kiley's narrative and will brief you as soon as we know more. [return to top]