Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

The Lancaster General Hospital is a highly regarded not-for-profit hospital with a net profit(?) of $135.8 million for 2007, up 27.5% from 2006, on operating revenues of $716.7 million. Yes – you read that correctly: a not-for-profit hospital with a net profit of $135.8 million.
With the cost of health care spiraling out of control, and even though it’s a pittance on the national scale, one might think LGH would use at least some of that money to give its patients a break on their bills. After all, according to their web site, their official Mission Statement is “To advance the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” and their Vision is “To create an extraordinary experience...every time.” But no, the plan is to use that money to build another large money-making not-for-profit facility in West Earl Township.
Lancaster County is a very conservative area, and a majority of its government entities have traditionally been devoted to preserving its lush farmland. LGH’s proposed satellite would require new utility lines to pass through a few miles of that farmland; thus this construction has become extremely controversial from that angle. In addition, residents are wondering what the effect would be on Ephrata Community Hospital, a nearby small but very efficient operation.
Most local politicians are Republicans, and as such they tend to be protective of small businesses. Consequently, they should be very concerned about the potential plight of Ephrata Community Hospital. Because of its huge resources, LGH could easily price ECH out of business. After all, this is the very situation which has created a backlash against allowing “big box” stores such as Walmart to enter some local areas.
On the other hand, these same politicians are united in opposition to the health care plan proposed by President Obama because of its “public option,” a provision which they maintain would stifle competition.
So they are anti-competition in West Earl Township, and pro-competition on the national scale. And if they attempt to control the expansion of LGH by quietly playing the farmland preservation card, are they not employing government meddling in the private sector - an extreme conservative no-no ever since the days of Ronald Reagan?
Will Goliath beat David this round? If I had to guess, I would bet on the boys with the deep pockets, especially since both the politicians and the pockets are local.

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