Florida laws contain some of the most ill-designed regulations in the country. But some regulations are particularly harmful, especially in the health care industry. Take, for instance, Subsection (6) of Section 395.003 of the Florida Statutes. This well-hidden rule only allows an hospital to serve one population, one group of people, per license.
This costly regulation forces hospitals throughout the Sunshine State to consecrate their services to only a limited amount of people, which prevents any expansion. And at the end of the day, the outcome is a lack of competition in the health care market, pushing prices up as local monopolies are formed.
Thankfully, Miami Children’s Hospital has been fighting the good fight to ease up parts of the regulation. On Monday, thanks to its lobbying efforts, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB1159, a bill that would allow children’s hospitals located in counties with more than 1,750,000 inhabitants to build maternity wards for women with high-risk pregnancies. 73 voted to approve the bill, against 40 dissenting voices.
It is only a small step, as Miami Children’s Hospital is the only medical facility fitting the description. Yet, the 18 state representatives from Miami-Dade County were evenly-divided with their votes. Barbara Watson (D-North UMSA) was one of the opponents of the bill, claiming that the county already had enough maternity wards.
Yet, Watson was clearly wrong with her statement, made on the House floor. Even though Miami-Dade County already has seven facilities to take care of neonatal problems and even if, as the Miami Herald pointed out, the local birth rate has been in decline, the fact remains that Miami Children’s Hospital feels the need to build such a maternity ward. Why? Because there is a market for the services it would provide. In other words, if Watson’s comments were accurate, the Children’s Hospital would not even consider investing in a new facility.
The laws of supply and demand apply also to the health care market. The fact that health care is so important to human lives does not change a thing. After all, food is affordable to everyone because there is a capitalistic market for food. No politician in Tallahassee should be deciding what the optimum supply of a service is, especially in medical care. Whatever statistic Barbara Watson and the eight other Miami-Dade representatives can pull out, this is not the time to ration health care.
However, the details of the opposing case become clearer when we look at who does the lobbying. Bob Levy, a registered lobbyist for Baptist Hospital, made his case on Monday. “This will hurt Jackson Memorial Hospital,” he said, claiming the bill is “all about money”.
That’s right. The other hospitals in the area do not want Miami Children’s to open up its services because it would be a tough competition. Well, this is what really provides good services and low prices. Competition is what leads to better quality and more affordability and it is competition that forces profits to go into investments. The only reason why Baptist Hospital opposes the bill (and pushes for some state representatives to oppose it as well) is the possible loss of profits on its side.
Thankfully, the House passed HB1159. The decision is now up the Senate, which has a duty to relax the regulations. If we face the facts of the so-called health care crisis we are facing, our leaders should have the decency to be honest once in their lifetimes.
But another question should be raised. Miami Children’s Hospital is in Miami-Dade County. The complaining competitors are also in Miami-Dade County. Why is this a state issue to begin with?