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Words from Washington

We need to preserve our health care choices

With the recent passage of the new health care law, there are many unanswered questions about how it will be implemented and what effect it will have on millions of Americans. One section of the law, however, is quite clear about the consequences for doctor-owned hospitals and the patients that rely on them.

I have authored and introduced legislation to repeal a part of the law that arbitrarily bans new doctor-owned hospitals and restricts existing doctor-owned hospitals from growing to meet the needs of their communities.

The new health care law prevents the construction of doctor-owned hospitals after this year, places new reporting mandates on doctor-owned hospitals only and severely restricts the ability of existing doctor-owned hospitals to add beds or expand services.

These restrictions are just another way the federal government is taking control of our health care by limiting choices, rationing care and dictating where, when and how Americans get their health care under the new law. Something is just plain wrong when the federal government dictates that outside corporations can own hospitals, but local doctors cannot.

There are currently 260 doctor-owned hospitals operating in the United States and an additional 60 under development. By choosing to target these hospitals for elimination or keep them from ever expanding, those who control Congress are denying Americans access to quality hometown health care. At a time when this Congress should increase health care choices, they are instead taking options for patients completely off the table.

Under the health care law, the main campus of doctor-owned hospitals could only expand if they go through a to-be-determined set of bureaucratic hoops and win approval by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Decisions by the Secretary are final with no opportunity to appeal. Health clinics and other facilities located outside of the hospital's main campus could never expand under the law.

Decisions about the growth of local health care facilities and the needs of our communities should not be dictated to us from 3,000 miles away in Washington D.C. Limiting access to health care, particularly in rural communities, will lead to longer waits, longer drives and higher prices.

I voted against the health care law and I believe Congress must get to work on common sense reforms that will lower health care costs and increase choices - without blocking hospitals from growing to meet the needs of communities - particularly in rural, underserved areas.

- Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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