Iowa hospitals must win certificate-of-need approval to build a replacement hospital at a new location, an Iowa district court judge said. The state CON law exempts projects to replace or modernize hospitals that do not add new services or increase capacity, but only if facilities do not relocate, wrote Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson in his decision.
The ruling is a victory for insurer Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Des Moines, which sued Iowas Department of Public Health and three hospitals seeking to build replacement facilities within the same county, which providers argued was allowed under the exemption. Wellmark sued to prevent construction of the replacement facilities.
Hanson wrote that Iowas law requires relocating hospitals to seek approval, no matter the distance, he said. The court does not believe that the Legislature could have intended that a facility may evade CON review simply by moving a proposed project a few blocks to the east, Hanson wrote.
Wellmark eventually dropped 575-bed Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines from the lawsuit after reaching a deal on rates. Meanwhile, Iowa Health System, Des Moines, scuttled plans to replace 219-bed Iowa Lutheran Hospital, Des Moines, and on Oct. 25 won a CON to build a 95-bed hospital. Jones Regional Medical Center, a 25-bed hospital in Anamosa, also received a CON. An Iowa Department of Public Health spokesman said the appropriate official was unavailable for comment at deadline. -- by Melanie Evans
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your letter to Modern Healthcare Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.