Legislation that passed the Illinois House on Monday would extend the life of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board for a year while a task force studies possible reforms or whether the board is needed at all.
The board reviews and approves or denies all large medical construction projects and equipment purchases, with an eye toward preventing duplication of medical services in geographic areas. Without legislation to extend it, the board's authority will expire Thursday.
Critics of the process the board uses to review projects, known as "certificates of need," say the marketplace should determine whether, for instance, a surgical center could be built in a certain area.
"I don't know why we are voting to keep a failed program going," Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, said Monday.
But others worry that without some sort of review process, specialty medical centers could "cherry pick" high-profit procedures, such as elective surgery, and leave general hospitals to serve only uninsured, non-paying patients.
A report issued in February by The Lewin Group, a Virginia-based health consulting firm, suggested extending the certificate-of-need process for three years while its effectiveness is studied. It found no evidence that the board has prevented unnecessary services or contained medical costs but suggested it might have a role in determining statewide health needs in an "uncertain world."
The new, 15-member task force would issue its recommendations to the governor and General Assembly by March 1, 2008. Under the legislation, Senate Bill 244, the board would be extended until Aug. 31, 2008.
Because the bill was amended in the House, it must go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
Dana Heupel can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.