My take: A Delaware healthcare bill with no drama

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In what had been a bitter battle pitting hospitals and General Assembly Democrats over proposed industry regulation, one common-sense bill has flown under the radar.

House House 326 requires nonprofit hospitals to issue an annual community benefits report that lists expenses for uncompensated care, community outreach, and other areas. The bill passed the House last week minus any no votes.

Sponsored by Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, the bill is nothing new. Thirty-one other states have similar legislation.

The bill also received the backing of the Delaware Healthcare Association, the hospital lobbying group waging the campaign against House Bill 350 – legislation that would approve hospital budgets that meet certain benchmarks. That bill passed the House after a contentious debate..

Hospitals rolled out a flood of media posts, launched demonstrations outside Legislative Hall, and made dire predictions of the legislation decimating their industry. The association gained the backing of the Republicans in both the House and Senate, along with a broad segment of the business community.

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After all, the state’s state’s nonprofit healthcare systems are a major driver of the economy.

ChristianaCare is the state’s largest private employer, with Bayhealth in Dover and northern Sussex rivaling the payroll at Dover Air Force Base and Beebe Healthcare now the biggest private employer in Sussex County.

Bryan Shupe, a GOP state representative and CEO of Milford Live and other online news sites, recently  took note of the  $314 million that was spent on building the new Bayhealth hospital in Milford and the healthcare campus that is sprouting up around it.

Bayhealth’s investment has contributed to Milford’s turnaround after decades of seeing higher-paying blue-collar jobs disappear and replaced by growth in lower-paid areas such as poultry processing. An influx of retirees also aided the city’s revival and contributed to Bayhealth’s decision to “go big” with a new hospital campus.

These economic realities should be taken into account, along with the need for hospital systems to place a higher priority on their role in controlling healthcare costs, which now account for at least a third of the state budget. 

All involved need to catch their breath and in a clear-headed manner  assess the economic impact,  including their spending on brick-and-mortar and healthcare costs.

That appeared to happen Monday afternoon when the Delaware Healthcare Association posted a letter indicating it is taking a neutral position on the bill after revisions were made.

It now appears that regulation is on its way for the hospital industry.  House Bill 326, if passed, will provide additional transparency.. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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