Nebraska freezes construction applications, licenses until Sept. 2011
State not accepting applications till September 2011
Organizations seeking to build a new hospital in Nebraska shouldn’t even think about it until after Sept. 15, 2011. Under legislation supported by the Nebraska Hospital Association and signed April 14 by Gov. Dave Heineman, the state of Nebraska is not accepting applications for or issuing licenses to any new hospital between April 15, 2010, and Sept. 15, 2011.
There are, however, two notable exceptions: The state will continue to accept applications and issue licenses for critical-access hospitals and will also issue licenses for hospitals that began or will begin construction before May 1 of this year.
The bill also calls for the Health and Human Services Committee of the state’s nonpartisan, one-house Legislature to study Nebraska’s healthcare landscape and report its findings by Dec. 31, 2010. The new law calls for the study to compare the roles of Nebraska’s general acute-care hospitals, critical-access hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, physician-owned hospitals and other “limited service facilities” regarding access, quality and costs to Medicaid and insurance premiums; referral practices; ownership disclosure; uncompensated and under-compensated care; examination and definition of community benefits; and the impact of federal healthcare reform.
The bill originally called for a two-year moratorium but was eventually shortened so that it would end in September of next year.
According to the law’s legislative sponsor, state Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, between 1979 and 1997, Nebraska required a certificate of need for new hospitals, but she “doesn’t envision that we would go back to certificate of need.”
Construction began last month on the 40bed Kearney (Neb.) Regional Medical Center, which is being built by some 40 physician investors. Negotiations are under way for a possible partnership with the Catholic Health Initiatives-owned 208-bed Good Samaritan Health Systems hospital also in Kearney.
Although Campbell said the legislation was not focused on Kearney, the Nebraska Hospital Association’s support of the measure was largely based on its opposition to physician-owned hospitals.
“NHA member hospitals support the twoyear moratorium included in LB 999 because there are many unanswered questions about the impact of physician-owned hospitals that should be answered before such a hospital is allowed to open in any Nebraska community,” Bruce Rieker, NHA vice president, said during Feb. 24 legislative testimony.
“If physician-owned hospitals are allowed to siphon off the profitable cases, leaving the community hospital with unprofitable cases, in time the community hospital may be forced to discontinue certain services, causing access to care issues for residents in various parts of the state.”
The NHA did not offer comment on the passage of the bill. A representative of the nine-hospital, Omaha-based Alegent Health System declined to comment.
Campbell: “Doesn’t envision that we would go back” to CON.