Madison - St. Clair Record

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Planning Act called a corruption tax that costs consumers but aids politicians

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By The Madison County Record | Apr 26, 2016

The purpose of hospitals is to provide medical care, isn't it? Hospitals are for patients, right? Not always.

Patients are frequently not the first concern of some medical institutions. Some hospitals often seem to operate primarily for the benefit of doctors and administrators. At those facilities, the needs and desires of patients get short shrift.

That wouldn't be so bad if there were plenty of hospitals to choose from and patients could go elsewhere when dissatisfied with the quality of care. The presence of alternatives also provides competition for unsatisfactory institutions, offering compelling incentives for improved performance.

Competition, however, is the last thing these institutions want, and they'll do whatever they can to stifle it. What they want is a concession that belongs to them alone, and a captive audience that has to accept what they're offered at the price demanded.

Such an attitude may explain the adamant and persistent opposition that two hospital operators displayed for more than five years as they attempted to block a rival group from obtaining a permit to build a new facility in their service area. The effort to maintain their monopoly ultimately failed, however, when an Illinois appellate panel unanimously upheld the permit granted to Centegra to build a new hospital in McHenry County.

One appellate judge denounced the permitting process itself and the 1974 Planning Act that established it, calling it “nothing more than an additional corruption tax added to the cost of healthcare in Illinois." 

“This legislation is clearly anti-consumer, but pro-politician,” wrote Justice Daniel Schmidt. “This legislation assures that money keeps pouring into Illinois politicians not only from those wishing to build new hospitals, but also from incumbent hospitals wishing to avoid any competition.

“By restricting the output of healthcare services and diminishing incentives to pursue innovation,” Schmidt concluded, “the Planning Act imposes significant and unnecessary costs on healthcare consumers, i.e., the people of Illinois.”

Was this act ever intended for the benefit of the people?

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