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< A couple of bloody bills | Main | Monkey business >

The Radiation Hold

Posted at 4:01 PM on March 5, 2008 by Michael Marchio (1 Comments)

How big and what kind of a role should the state play in health care is always a bone of contention at the Legislature, and it can always be counted on to show some interesting fault lines between the lawmakers. We had a glimpse of that this afternoon discussing SF2667. Sponsored by Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) the bill would make the moratorium on building new radiation treatment centers - scheduled to expire next year - permanent throughout much of the state. The reason for the moratorium, according to Berglin, was that a report conducted by the Department of Health said that all current facilities are under capacity, and would be for the next ten years, and possibly longer with new technologies at existing facilities.

David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), had this to say:

"The argument is that we should not allow this to go forward, because we have run the risk of overbuilding capacity. And members, that’s not for this body to decide, at least in my judgment...What we're really doing here is that we're saying we want radiation to be conducted at hospitals and not at independent radiation clinics...As I understand it part of the argument here is that radiation facilities are a lucrative component of hospital revenue, and if we allow competition to flourish that may put in jeopardy some hospital revenues."

He argued, basically, that the state was creating a monopoly by eliminating competition.

Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park) offered an amendment to extend the moratorium until 2010. Scheid said that she hadn't read the entire study, but heard from accrediting organizations that some facilities are already full.

"Why would we limit where people could receive this treatment, and by whom and when," she said. She also appealed on personal grounds.

"Members know, we've had the experience here in this body, with a member who received close to 30 treatments, driving every day to Rochester for those, Monday through Friday. No one should have to do that. He had lots of good friends who were able to help him do that. Not all people have people available to help drive them around."

Former state Sen. Dallas Sams was the member to whom she was referring. Strangely enough, he died a year ago on this very day.

The amendment failed on a 23 to 40 vote, and bill itself passed on a voice vote.

If the state invests a lot of money in health care costs - which it does - does it have the right to tell hospitals and clinics what kind of treatment facilities they can build? I know at least a few MFL participants are involved in the health field. Any insights you can offer to the league?

Comments (1)

The state should have the authority to specify what the operational safety parameters are, as a measure to protect the public health (employees and patients). They should not have the authority to create a monopoly without explicitly stating that is their purpose (e.g. Ma Bell in 80s). If the State doesn't like the competition, they can simply refuse to pay for people to go there, who are on state-funded insurance (i.e., make them an "out of network provider").

This should be analogous to environmental and occupational safety regulation. In those cases, the state says "this is the legal limit of exposure to some hazard - go keep your workers/world safely under those limits".

Perhaps this is one point where I side with the Republicans over 'the market will regulate itself' financially. If I run a business to do radiation treatments, and I don't get enough clients, I'll go out of business.

Posted by Elizabeth T. | March 9, 2008 3:34 PM