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Archive for Thursday, March 30, 1995

HOSPITAL BILL STALLS IN COMMITTEE

March 30, 1995

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A bill intended to assure continued health services in communities served by government-owned hospitals won't make it out of the Kansas Legislature this year.

Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has won at least a temporary reprieve from the threat of state legislation that could hinder its plan to create a statewide network of hospitals.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, would have given city and county governments that run hospitals new authority to extract guarantees about local services from for-profit hospital companies that want to buy or build hospitals to compete with government-owned hospitals.

Earlier this month the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Praeger, approved the bill. But when it reached the full Senate it was amended to protect private not-for-profit hospitals, such as Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center in Topeka, in the same way that the bill protects government-owned hospitals.

A final vote was put off and the bill was sent back to the committee. And there it has remained. This is the last full week of the Legislature's annual 90-day session.

"It just didn't seem appropriate to try to fight it when the chances of it going anywhere were probably slim," Praeger said Wednesday.

The bill isn't dead, though. Praeger plans to have the joint Health Care Reform Legislative Oversight Committee study the proposal this summer and fall. The bill could return for consideration by the Senate and House during the Legislature's annual 90 day session in 1996.

Some of the bill's critics complained that it was nothing more than special-interest legislation to protect Lawrence Memorial Hospital from Columbia, the Louisville, Ky., for-profit company that in July 1994 opened a medical office and urgent-care clinic in Lawrence at Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive.

More recently Columbia executives have said they will build a second hospital in Lawrence if they can't invest in LMH, which is non-profit and owned by the city. Columbia proposed in February to buy a 50 percent stake in LMH.

The hospital's board, appointed by the city commission, has delayed a decision on Columbia's proposal until April at the earliest, after it has held meetings with other area hospital companies. Those meetings, open to the public, conclude this week.

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