Hospital Lobby Under Fire from Both Berger AND Cooper

August 2, 2022

Rare political feat comes from hospital lobby’s decision to block Medicaid expansion, refuse to negotiate on reforms

It’s not often that Senate Leader Phil Berger and Gov. Roy Cooper join together in political battle. But the hospital lobby has managed to unite them.

The group is deploying its lobbying might to stop Medicaid expansion because it’s paired with reforms to certificate of need laws. Under current certificate of need laws, hospitals can effectively block any competitors from offering health services nearby. So, given a choice between Medicaid expansion and protectionist laws that inflate health costs and boost hospital profits, the hospital lobby chooses the latter – and it’s infuriating Berger and Cooper.

Last week, Sen. Berger gave reporters an update on Medicaid expansion progress, saying, “Quite frankly, as long as the hospitals remain as intransigent as they are, I don’t see that we’re going to make any progress.”

And today, Gov. Cooper published an op-ed in the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer taking aim at the hospital lobby. He wrote, “Hospital leaders know that no vote will come on Medicaid expansion this year unless they compromise on competition, but the powerful hospital lobby hasn’t yielded out of fear for their profits. Our state has some of the most restrictive laws on hospital competition, so there is room to move.”

We’re usually critical of Gov. Cooper’s big government policies, but it’s nice to see him come out for free markets in healthcare.

All this comes after a different column in the News & Observer reported the N.C. Healthcare Association, which lobbies for hospitals, instructed hospital CEOs to stop negotiating with the legislature over certificate of need reform because it’s “not only counterproductive to our messaging on our Medicaid priorities but undermines our support in the House.”

Things are escalating quickly. The hospital lobby should change course and negotiate in earnest to reform the state’s protectionist certificate of need laws. Hospitals earned record profits over the past two years and accepted taxpayer assistance to boot – certificate of need creates nothing more than a legal cartel that harms health consumers while boosting hospital profits.