Iowa, one of the last bastions of not-for-profit healthcare delivery, appears to be laying out the welcome mat for investor-owned hospital chains.
The Iowa Hospital Association House of Delegates last week voted to allow investor-owned hospitals to join.
"We'd rather deal with this divisive issue in a productive way rather than in a reactive way to a crisis situation," IHA President Steve Brenton told MODERN HEALTHCARE at the association's annual meeting in Des Moines.
"Proprietary hospitals have a different legislative agenda than not-for-profits, but we want to deal with those issues from within the association rather than outside it."
Just one of the state's hospitals is investor-owned. Nearly half its hospitals are owned by local governments.
Recent ventures by for-profit chains into Iowa have been unsuccessful. Both OrNda HealthCorp and Quorum Health Group were thwarted in their efforts to acquire Mary Greeley Medical Center, a 196-bed public hospital in Ames. Also, Charter Medical Corp. sold Charter Community Hospital of Des Moines to Mercy Hospital Medical Center, a major not-for-profit system in the same city.
However, investor-owned hospital chains are nearby. Tenet Healthcare Corp. owns a hospital in Omaha, Neb., and would need additional providers across the Missouri River in western Iowa to complete its network. Hospital executives also hinted of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s future interest in the state.
"I feel better about dealing with the for-profit issue in 1995 rather than in, say, 1998, when Columbia makes a major beachhead in the state," Brenton said.
IHA members also voted to change the organization's name to the Association of Iowa Hospitals and Health Systems.