Central Peninsula Hospital: Government-run health care?

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010

The proposed partnership between Central Peninsula Hospital and a national health care company may offer residents a rare opportunity -- to make a definitive statement on government-run vs. private health care.

Currently, the Kenai Peninsula Borough owns the facility outright. And residents certainly have an asset to be proud of. It's valued at more than $100 million, with annual revenues approaching $140 million. Its burden on the tax payers has steadily shrunk over the years -- from about $3.6 million in 2007-08 to $2.1 million this fiscal year. Eventually, that tax burden will drop to zero.

Now the hospital's attracted a potential partner, LHP Hospital Group, out of Texas. As the company CEO Dan Moen said last week, his group would like to help Central Peninsula Hospital add new services and, with those new services, jobs. And local influence will be kept in place.

Sounds like what one would expect from private enterprise, doesn't it?

What keeps Central Peninsula from doing that now? The political process.

You see, every major expansion the hospital wants to undertake -- a cancer treatment center or a cardiac lab -- must pass muster with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. In that respect, you could almost think of your assembly members as a "health panel," with control over the quality of care available locally.

Private enterprise acts quickly, with no lengthy deliberations or public hearings to delay getting services to customers (or patients).

And private enterprises pay taxes. Think about it: A publicly-owned health complex that doesn't return anything, or a private health facility that contributes to tax revenues? Which is more valuable?

Indeed, this is exactly what opponents of the recently passed national health care legislation have argued. No government-run health care. The market can do it better.

By that argument, residents should be strongly encouraging the assembly to look favorably on this proposal, and if not with this company, then others.

Certainly, the assembly may get into deliberations and determine it would rather not partner with LHP. That's OK. This isn't a question of which company to partner with. This is a question of philosophy.

And it's the borough's opportunity to act on that philosophy in the most meaningful way possible -- by getting out of the health care business.

In short: If you really believe: "No government-run health care," then Central Peninsula Hospital should be privatized.

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