N.J.Hospital Dispute Shows Challenges To Controlling Health Costs
A for-profit hospital system seeks to build a new facility in Westwood, N.J., a town of 11,000 in an area where existing hospitals are "scrambling for patients to fill their high-priced beds," Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post report. Still, residents and public officials have enthusiastically backed the proposal, saying the new 128-bed hospital would boost employment and tax revenues, and provide quicker access to care in emergencies. The hospital system views the expansion as a potentially lucrative business maneuver.
Meanwhile, state officials and the nearby hospitals have opposed the new facility. "To allow something like this, that flies in the face of rational health care, would be devastating to Englewood Hospital and the communities we serve," one executive of a nearby hospital told Kaiser Health News. A member of a commission formed by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine to evaluate New Jersey's medical excesses explained that "adding a hospital was an especially bad idea since Congress and Obama are focused on extracting large savings from the health care system," according to the article.
The situation foreshadows one hazard to the health care reform proposals being debated in Washington now, where President Barack Obama and lawmakers are hoping to expand coverage, while at the same time cutting costs. Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post report: "Tens of billions of dollars must be found to keep health care spending from gobbling up an increasing share of the economy and thwarting efforts to insure all Americans. But standing in the way are strong financial incentives and public enthusiasm for the latest and often most expensive facilities, technologies and procedures. There's also powerful resistance to making do with less" (Rau, 6/1).