Bill to extend Illinois Health and Facilities Planning Act clears House despite GOP opposition
Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) said the closest thing to eternity here on Earth is a government program that ceases to end, like the Illinois Health and Facilities Planning Act.
“It came into existence in the 1970s,” Harris said of the act during House floor debate April 18.
Harris condemned HB4645, sponsored by Rep. William Davis (R-Homewood), which would continue the act's sunset by another 10 years. Harris said the act's initial review board that determined if every hospital should be required to have certain services has been thwarted over time and now clearly prevents marketplace competition.
“It can be easily argued this is a franchise protection, and keeps outsiders from coming in and lowering the cost of health care,” Harris said.
If ever there was a government program that needed to end, this is the one, Harris said before opening the floor to further debate.
Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) wanted to know exactly what requirements were being extended. After told by Davis the act itself would live on, Breen noted not every state has a certificate of need program as seen in the act.
“It is good to know we would be extending ours by 10 years were we to adopt the bill,” Breen said.
Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) asked Davis what would happen if the sunset actually set. Davis said unlike what Harris pointed out, the act promotes marketplace competition, especially in areas where some hospitals do not offer needed services specifically to Medicaid clients.
Wehrli asked Davis if the board process has ever been abused politically.
“Not that I am aware of,” Davis said.
After laughing, Wehrli reminded the House that it had.
“There is a former governor serving 14 years in prison, who just appealed to the United States court and it was denied, and part of it was based on this board,” Wehrli said.
A hospital administrator in his district was asked to wear a wire to expose the very corruption involved in the process, Wehrli said, adding the market will dictate and health care will go to all regardless of the bill.
“This is a laborious process," Wehrli said. "It is rife with corruption and it is time for this board to simply go away. This is one of the worst things we do in Illinois. A governor is in jail because of this, so please vote no.”
Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) wanted to know why the rush.
“We have until Dec. 31, 2019 to extend this act,” Demmer said.
Noting the recent provider assessment tax in the $3.5 billion Hospital Assessment Program passed by the state, Demmer said ongoing reviews should be considered before making another decade-long commitment.
“We should be responsive to what is changing in the health care industry across the state,” Demmer said.
Like Demmer, Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) wanted to know why the sponsor was pushing the bill forward 18 months before its sunset.
“I really think we need to take some time, because what this bill does is freeze into place the current situation and it is a very anti-competitive bill,” McDermed said.
Lawmakers can do a lot better, according to McDermed, who said the best health care at the lowest cost is not available in the legislation.
After a lengthy debate, HB4645 passed by 62-50 and moved to the Senate.