WellStar Paulding President Warns of Legislation Targeting CONs
Some state lawmakers are proposing legislation that could impact not-for-profit hospitals including Paulding’s WellStar Hospital. In the current session, and following the lead of a House study committee, HB198 took a broad swipe at the restrictions known as Certificate of need, or CON, but recently failed to make it through the house.
Certificate of need is a regulation that is aimed at protecting the bottom lines of public hospitals. Such hospitals say private health businesses want to cherry-pick their profitable services, such as bone surgery or cancer treatment, and leave them with the money losers, including caring for those who can’t pay.
Current state CON regulations say that if someone wants to open a new medical facility, the state must first certify that there’s actually a need for it that isn’t already being served by other hospitals. But some entrepreneurs argue that they’re blocked from innovation by CON and that patients are deprived of choice. Hospitals maintain that CON is vital to keeping them solvent.
“The hospital community strongly opposes the elimination of the certificate of need process,” said Ethan James, the executive vice president for external affairs at the Georgia Hospital Association. “We can support a thoughtful and measured modernization of CON, but we object to repealing the entire state health planning process.”
WellStar Paulding Hospital President John Kueven spoke briefly to Paulding business leaders last week during their March event in Dallas and warned of legislation that would impact Paulding Hospital if it were to pass during the 2019 General Assembly.
Georgia is a CON state, Kueven explained and depends on the CON status to protect not-for-profit hospitals to be able to deliver their services to a range of patients who reside in the community. On the heels of HB198 another bill in the Senate also seeks to modify current restrictions, Kueven said.
According to information obtained from the Georgia Department of Community Health’s website, “...the state began reviewing health care projects in 1975 under Section 1122 of the 1972 Social Security Act Amendments and Georgia's CON program was established by the General Assembly in 1979 (O.C.G.A. Title 31, Chapter 6).”
“CON is the official determination that a new or expanded healthcare service or facility is needed in Georgia. The purpose of the CON program is to ensure the availability of adequate health care services to meet the needs of all Georgians while safeguarding against the unnecessary duplication of services that perpetuate the costs of health care services.”
Kueven, who comes to Paulding from the Houston, warned that he’s seen the impact in that market and also noted that Florida has gone in a similar direction.
Kueven previously headed-up the 208-bed Memorial Herman Katy Hospital near Houston, Texas, before moving to Paulding to take over as senior vice president and president of WellStar Paulding Hospital. Kueven oversees the day-to-day operations of the 112-bed hospital facility in Hiram and 182-bed skilled nursing center in Dallas.
Paulding’s state-of-the-art hospital facility opened in Hiram in April of 2014, with 56 beds and 40 emergency exam rooms and an emergency department, cancer center, women’s imaging, surgical and other healthcare services.