Legislative Mockery Will Impede GOP Efforts

May 6, 2002
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Grand Rapids Business Journal reports this week on the Small Business Association of Michigan membership survey, which demonstrates that the growing crisis in health insurance premium costs will shut the doors to some Michigan businesses. In the same week that the report was released, legislators attempted to circumvent Michigan’s health care regulatory agency, for the second time, to advance the $155 million hospital relocation plan for Metropolitan Hospital.

This senseless action is an unequivocal punch to the kidney from the offending legislators to the community of business owners. First and foremost, the Department of Public Health Certificate of Need revision of restrictions on hospital relocations was approved April 11, and only awaits a logical period of time for public comment. A month ago Metropolitan Hospital CEO Mike Faas said he was happy with approval and the new standard. It is senseless that legislators, whose occupation is in writing law and setting guidelines, would so brazenly attempt to circumvent one of their own, for no known reason.

One year ago, Grand Rapids Business Journal supported Metropolitan’s plan to move from its land-locked location, and has continued to support that plan, on this page. So, too, have other concerned parties, giving the Metropolitan Hospital Board of Trustees comparatively enthusiastic support as it moved its case through the Department of Public Health. The move offers benefit to southern and western Kent County in placing a major health care facility in a rapidly growing region of Kent County.

Legislators last week reviewed a bill to require criminal background checks for nursing home employees and created a provider tax on nursing homes to leverage Medicaid funding. Then an amendment was inserted in the bill that would have allowed Metropolitan’s move without public review. Last summer Metro asked local lawmakers to insert language into a Department of Community Health appropriations bill, essentially permitting the move. The amendment was ruled unconstitutional and unenforceable.

What stands out in this embarrassing debacle is that those elected leaders, previously thought to be responsible and ethical, cut secret, back-room deals rather than guarding their public’s right to open and civil debate. Some among them are leading Michigan Republican election efforts, and this blatant monkey business will cast a pall upon such efforts. To attempt to insert such circumvention of state law in a bill that is needed, desired and deserved support makes the action even more shameful.

The betrayal of public trust as Michigan businesses suffer escalating costs over five consecutive years does not bode well in the fight over a looming health care crisis. The legislators responsible need their heads examined.           

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