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New bills call for more transparency

News Photo by Crystal Nelson The exterior of MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena is shown on Wednesday.

ALPENA — Four new bipartisan health care bills recently introduced in the state House would require greater transparency from the state’s Certificate of Need Commission.

Adam Carlson, vice president, advocacy, with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, said Certificate of Need is a state regulatory program set up to ensure health care services are delivered in a way that’s high quality, geographically accessible, and cost effective for patients in the state.

“The whole goal of the program is to protect health care consumers from excess or low quality health care services and the cost associated with them,” he said. “By ensuring certain standards that must be met, we’re ensuring the health care procedures that are being performed are those that actually need to be performed.”

Carlson said an increase of health care providers in states without Certificate of Need leads to higher costs, which are passed on to employers and individuals paying for unnecessary services.

Carlson said Certificate of Need sets standards entities, such as hospitals, need to meet if they want to establish or expand certain types of health care.

For example, state documents show MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena was required to obtain a Certificate of Need to construct its new patient tower and that the hospital currently has filed an application to add an operating room.

Hospital officials have also had to obtain a Certificate of Need in the past to purchase or replace imaging equipment including x-ray equipment, CT scanners and MRI machine. A Certificate of Need was also required for the hospital to purchase a hyperbaric chamber.

MidMichigan Health Public Relations Manager Millie Jezior declined comment for this story.

State Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said proponents hope to make sure the commission really reduces health care costs and makes care more accessible.

“A lot of the high-level health care decisions that affect every single one of us in our state have been shrouded in too much secrecy for too long,” Kahle said. “And, because it impacts so many aspects of our healthcare system — and when I say ‘it’, I’m talking about (the Certificate of Need Commission) — it’s just important that we can see it.”

The legislation has been referred to the Health Policy Committee.

Kahle, who chairs that committee, said the committee will take up the bills in the fall.

State Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, who represents Northeast Michigan also sits on the Health Policy Committee.

The bills establish timeframes specific transparency steps have to occur in.

For example, the commission has to notify the public at least 30 days in advance of a hearing to approve, disapprove, develop, or revise a certificate of need.

The bills would also require the commission to post meeting minutes 72 hours after approval, give the committee seven days to make a transcript of the meeting available, and a week to make a record of committee actions available.

Additionally, a joint legislative committee would hold an annual meeting to review actions taken by the commission in the previous year, proposed actions, and the impact of those actions on access to, quality of, and cost of care. A written report must also be made available to the public within 30 days.

“We’re still reviewing the legislation trying to determine the specific impact that it would have,” Carlson said. “But at first glance, it would appear the commission would be able to do these things probably without legislation.”

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