ATLANTA — The long-awaited “CTCA bill” has finally arrived – and Georgia’s hospital industry immediately pounced on it in opposition.
Legislation that would end major regulatory restrictions on the Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s hospital in Newnan was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly on Tuesday. The lead sponsor is state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
When Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) first sought to build its “destination cancer hospital” in Georgia, it faced strong opposition from major Atlanta hospitals and their allies. In 2008, the Legislature allowed the facility to be built, but required that 65 percent of the CTCA hospital’s patients come from out of state.
House Bill 482 would eliminate that requirement, as well as the hospital’s current limit of 50 beds.
The hospital industry has been nervously awaiting the bill since the beginning of the legislative session.
CTCA’s chief operating officer, David Kent, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “I would expect the final version of this bill to look different from what it does at this point. An ideal situation would be no ratio [of out-of-state patients], that would be easiest to manage, but the more Georgia patients we can say ‘yes’ to, the better.”
A for-profit company known for its sophisticated marketing, CTCA also operates cancer hospitals in Philadelphia, Tulsa, Phoenix and Chicago.
The Georgia Hospital Association issued a statement Tuesday that raised questions about CTCA’s current out-of-state patient mix, as well as its requirement to do a minimum of charity care.
“While the data that CTCA did submit last year is murky and inconsistent, it shows that CTCA fell short of its promise that at least 65 percent of its patients would reside outside the state and to spend 3 percent of its adjusted gross revenue on uninsured/underinsured patients,” said the GHA statement. “Furthermore, CTCA has failed to provide [the state Department of Community Health] its charity care policy as required. CTCA has not complied with existing law, and should not be granted even more special consideration by further weakening Georgia’s Certificate of Need program.”
The state’s Certificate of Need (CON) process regulates the construction and expansion of health care facilities.
Georgia Health News could not reach CTCA representatives for comment late Tuesday.
Last year, an AJC analysis of the hospital’s first public reports found that it saw no Medicaid patients in 2013. While the hospital said it provided the state-mandated amount of uncompensated charity care, the reports showed that fewer than 1 percent of its hospitalized patients – no more than six admissions – were uninsured, the AJC found.
The hospital, which opened in 2012, said it spent 2013 going through the complicated process to get approved by the Medicaid program in Georgia.
The hospital also said it met its charity care requirement by providing $4 million worth of indigent and charity care to 111 Georgia patients in 2013, the AJC’s Carrie Teegardin reported.
CTCA has also been politically active with financial contributions. The AJC reported last year that since 2006, the company has contributed about $340,000.
Nonprofit hospitals have always stoutly defended the CON process and lobbied hard against tinkering with it. House Bill 482 will undoubtedly lead to a fierce battle in the General Assembly.
On Monday, in fact, a report by a special rural hospital committee recommended that current CON laws stay in place to protect rural facilities that are struggling financially.