CON attack is costly to West Michigan businesses


Yet another health care system is attempting to circumvent the Michigan Certificate of Need process, and in so doing actually underscores the obvious necessity of Michigan’s process.

Among the alliance of businesses and health care institutions that joined to protect the CON procedure during a Michigan Senate hearing last week, one was notably absent: the Alliance for Health, which is representative of 13 West Michigan counties. Those that did attend hearings included Meijer Inc., Mercy Health (Trinity) and Spectrum Health.

The Business Journal advocates that, as the West Michigan Policy Forum convenes, sponsor Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce begin to engage regional partners to take up the position for health care accountability and cost containment. The ramifications of Senate Bill 1073 are equally impactful here.

In a case reminiscent of Blodgett Hospital’s attempt to leave its land-locked East Grand Rapids location for the East Beltline in 1991, McLaren Health deigns to pack up its beds in Pontiac and move them into a $300 million tower in the more affluent Clarkston. The Economic Alliance for Michigan President Bret Jackson noted during hearings such a plan drives up the cost of health care — not just in the Wayne-Oakland area but across the state — and undermines the CON process. He noted the CON was specifically created to minimize health care increases.

The Blodgett proposal rallied the Alliance for Health and it convened the now famous Hillman Commission, chaired by U.S. District Judge Douglas W. Hillman, to conduct a comprehensive review of hospital plans in Kent County and make appropriate recommendations for the future. The recommendations provided a blueprint for the community, leading to the merger of Butterworth and Blodgett Memorial hospitals and the creation of Spectrum Health.

The CON process has proven time and again in studies to have saved communities millions in additional health care costs, allowing for more necessary expenditures, most notably in programs aimed at community health (in West Michigan, that includes the Healthy Kent initiative).

The state and courts last December rejected McLaren’s costly overreach, but Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, is attempting to again skirt both the state and the courts. Oddly, he is assisted in the effort by Sen. Arlan Meekof, R-West Olive. Dr. Luis Tomatis, a Spectrum cardiologist who assisted in the initial physician group staffing of Spectrum’s Meijer Heart Center and previously the establishment of the Van Andel Institute, is among the Michigan Certificate of Need Commission members. He also serves as director of medical affairs for the Richard M. DeVos family.

The Senate committee adjourned its hearing without taking a vote, but not before hearing testimony from representatives of both Spectrum and Trinity health care. Trinity West Michigan regional President and CEO Roger Spoelman is on record commenting, “The trend in health care across the nation is for less hospitalization.” Spectrum’s Mark Lemoine noted the cost to both businesses and residents.

The continued value of West Michigan participation in issues of substantial cost to businesses is obvious. So, too, is the need for a coalition — devoid of politicians — representing West Michigan community values on the state level.

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