Following approval of UIHC North Liberty expansion, Iowa…

Following approval of UIHC North Liberty expansion, Iowa should rethink hospital restrictions




Iowa health-care providers must get government permission to develop new facilities or expand their current operations under current law.

The billboard on Highway 965 at the border of Coralville and North Liberty is finally genuine after years of speculation: “Coming soon,” it says beneath the University of Iowa Health Care emblem.

Plans for a UIHC offshoot in northern Johnson County have been in the works for a while, but they met a roadblock last year when a state body narrowly rejected the project. The Iowa Health Facilities Council overturned its decision and accepted the new plan this week after hospital leaders presented it.

New health-care institutions in Iowa must get a certificate of need from the state. The public and other health-care providers might object to the expansion through this approach. Mercy Iowa City and UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids argued against providing approval in this case.

We find it difficult to believe that the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City region, which acts as a health-care hub for the state and the Midwest, has too few health-care options. UI administrators made a compelling case that they are not competing with local hospitals, but rather increasing care for the region’s most difficult-to-treat patients.

We are pleased to see the UIHC project in North Liberty progress, but the dispute also underscores a larger concern with certificate of need legislation. UI has the clout and means to get over the red tape, while smaller community health care providers don’t have that luxury.

Iowa requires companies to obtain state approval not only for the construction of new hospitals, but also for a number of other health-care institutions. In many circumstances, even existing businesses must apply before expanding their facilities, purchasing new equipment, or offering new services.

This year, a measure was proposed in the Iowa Legislature to eliminate the requirement for a certificate of need. Despite the fact that it never made it through the legislative process, it drew the attention of the health-care business. Lobbyists for large hospital systems fought it, but primary care providers and independent physicians supported it.

At least a dozen states, including Wisconsin and South Dakota, have no requirement for a proof of need. If that isn’t possible, Iowa legislators may explore eliminating the requirement for particular projects, such as birth centers, nursing homes, and certain outpatient services.

Our region is expanding, and we require additional health-care facilities to fulfill our demands. Existing providers should not be allowed to obstruct our progress.

(319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com




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