Diamond State Hospital Review Board Hospital board

Carney signs bill to create hospital review board

Betsy PriceGovernment, Headlines

Diamond State Hospital Review BoardHospital board

A new state board that will try to stem healthcare costs by overseeing hospital budgets was created Thursday when Gov. John Carney signed House Bill 350.

The Diamond State Hospital Review Board blew into existence Thursday when Gov. John Carney signed House Bill 350.

The board, which will have authority to review Delaware hospital budgets, recommend changes and enforce those changes, will help the state and consumers lower their healthcare bills by limiting the growth of hospital budgets, supporters say.

Theoretically, supporters believe, that means the rise in what businesses and consumers have been paying lately will slow.

Opponents say the state has no business interfering in private business, that budget cuts will mean less access to care and tests for everybody, and the board is not a comprehensive enough move to make a real change. Any programs to control costs should include drug companies, pharmacies, suppliers and other healthcare providers for any real impact, those opponents say.

Chief among the critics was the Delaware Healthcare Association, a trade group of hospitals. It fought the bill amid a hail of scorn from the sponsors, but finally agreed to a compromise version that included the removal of a clause that would allow the state to take over hospital assets.

 “Now that HB 350 has been signed into law, DHA will advocate to ensure that the law’s implementation enables Delaware’s hospitals to continue providing high quality care to the patients and communities we serve,” said President and CEO Brian Frazee.

“We are proud that Delaware currently ranks No. 2 in the nation for hospital quality and we will strive to ensure access to care for all Delawareans, strengthen the healthcare workforce, and advance health equity as the regulatory and implementation process moves forward,” he said.

Board backpatting

The Democrats who support the bill, however, may soon need physical therapy for patting themselves on the back for taking such a courageous stand, even when Dems dominate the General Assembly and can vote through virtually anything they want.

Gov. John Carney called the controversial bill an “important piece of legislation that will make a positive impact on Delawareans.”

“Rising health care costs are having a significant impact on Delaware families and state taxpayers, and we’ve been committed to addressing this since the start of my time as governor,” said
Gov. John Carney. “House Bill 350 will help lower the growth of healthcare costs in our state, while making sure we’re protecting health care quality and access.”

House Speaker Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, who sponsored by the bill, said, “With the signing of HB 350 today, we have taken a monumental step in getting these prices under control while bringing much needed transparency to our state’s hospital pricing process.”

“This legislation is a major breakthrough for small businesses and working families in Delaware, who for years have been paying more for healthcare than people in nearly every other state,” said Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark.

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The review board is a group of seven healthcare quality experts – appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, plus the head of the Delaware Healthcare Association, who will not be able to vote.

The board will be tasked with making sure hospital pricing doesn’t rise any more than the annual benchmarks set by the state through its Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council. That number is based on the rise in Delaware’s domestic product.

A hospital that exceeds the benchmark will be required to submit a performance improvement plan that details specific strategies, adjustments and next steps proposed by the hospital to rein in costs, along with a timetable for implementation, allowing hospitals to adjust their own costs without additional state intervention.

Supporters say the legislation will help create transparency around hospital costs and spending, but virtually all of the information that the hospitals will submit to the board will not be available to the public.


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