More changes to the Hospital Conversions Act
As I reported yesterday, the RI Senate Committee on Health and Human Services is voting today on a bill meant to change the way the state approves hospital sales and mergers.
The most controversial change allows for-profit entities to buy more than one hospital in a year instead of waiting three years. But there have been other little tweaks around the edges. Just last week the General Assembly received a new version of the bill. And late last night I received another revision.
Here is the most recent version of the bill (now titled S 2180 SUBSTITUTE A3.) It’s in various colors, which must reflect changes from each version, but I’m unclear about which layer is which. I’m waiting for notes from the Senate for a summary of what exactly is different this time around.
It is worth pointing out one portion of the bill that I didn’t notice before. The very last section tacks on a change, not to the Hospital Conversions Act, but to RI law concerning the Health care planning and accountability advisory council. This is the group responsible for figuring out how many hospitals we need, how many doctors and types of doctors do we need, and how can we make all these parts of the health care system work together efficiently. The Director of RI’s Department of Health talks a lot about the need for this kind of coordination.
The amendment looks similar to the existing law except for the last half of one paragraph-
The initial priority of the council shall be an assessment of the needs of the state with regard to hospital services and to present recommendations, if any, for modifications to the Hospital Conversion Act and the Certificate of Need Program to execute the strategic recommendations of the council. The council shall provide an initial report and recommendations to the governor and general assembly on or before March 1, 2013.
See that? It’s a deadline. Rhode Island has been talking about efforts to coordinate care for years, but it hasn’t taken much action. Will this little paragraph force the state to actually organize our health care system? No idea. But it seems like an acknowledgement that something needs to be done.