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Does New Hampshire Need Specialty Cancer Centers?

Miss A Liss

Lawmakers are now considering whether to give exemptions to for-profit cancer centers so they can do business in the state. Under current regulations these cancer centers are likely  to be deemed redundant. But a new bill would allow them to avoid what is known as a Certificate of Need--to which all other hospitals must comply. These centers would also be exempt from Medicaid taxes.

Rep. Marilinda Garcia , R-Salem, is sponsoring the bill. "The overarching goal of this legislation is to develop the New Hampshire economy, " she says. Garcia and other proponents of the bill say the new cancer specialty hospitals will create hundreds of jobs and bring in millions of dollars in business investment.

Her legislation is modeled after a recently passed law in Georgia, which is now allowing specialty cancer care centers to be built. The for-profit chain Cancer Treatment Centers of America is currently constructing a specialty hospital in Georgia. CTCA would like to do business in the northeast and is eyeing New Hampshire as a prospective locale for a new hospital.

"Patients are telling us they want choice, the want another model of care, " says Bob Mayo, vice chair of the board of CTCA. "We're simply responding to that request."

The new specialty hospital would not accept Medicaid patients and this is one reason the New Hampshire Hospital Association opposes giving these for-profit cancer centers exemptions from the current regulatory process.

"By not requiring this new cancer facility to provide services to Medicaid or uninsured patients, the state of New Hampshire is, by public policy, endorsing the ability of this provider to 'cherry pick' only the most profitable patients, " says Steve Ahnen, president of the NHHA.

House committee members will hear more testimony on Thursday.