The recent closure of Good Samaritan Hospital in west Dayton has sparked protest against Premier Health by some community residents. A coalition of westside clergy groups has also filed a federal civil-rights complaint alleging the closure is discriminatory.
And now, a new proposal at the statehouse aims to revoke Premier’s non-profit status. WYSO's Jerry Kenney spoke with Cox Media reporter Cory Frolik about the proposed legislation.
KENNEY: So this new proposal to revoke Premier's non-profit status was co-sponsored by State Representatives, Republican Jim Butler of Oakwood and Democrat Fred Strahorn of Dayton, and of course the revocation would take place only under certain conditions. Specifically the closing and demolition of the Good Sam facility, correct?
FROLIK: So yes it kind of takes direct aim at health care systems that close hospitals. And if they don't take certain steps after closing hospitals and demolish them, they could be at risk of losing their non-profit status which has huge implications taxwise. I mean, they could be subject to property taxes, sales taxes, and commercial activity taxes as well. With this legislation, they unveiled it during a press conference outside of the Good Sam site, and what it essentially does is it says that health care providers, if they close a hospital, they first have to offer it for sale to the city or county it is located in it for a dollar, or more than that if the land underneath the facilities is more valuable than that. Then the city or county can buy it or they can approve demolition of the site as they determine it's in the best interests of the community. If they do not take action to approve demolition the hospital or health care provider has to put it up at public auction. But if no qualifying bids are made then their hospital network can demolish the closed hospital without penalty.
KENNEY: Cory, as you reported, the bill was basically a response to Premier's plan to tear down Good Sam and block the property from being used for inpatient care in the future - a heavy handed move to some. That is what, based on concerns of competition in the area?
FROLIK: They said in a statement to me that they are not forbidding all medical services on this site but they just want to restrict hospital services. Part of the reason they say they closed Good Sam is because it was operating at half its capacity. And they say, you know, the area has too many beds and they said closing the facility makes sense because their other hospital, Miami Valley Hospital, is so close by, and there's just over bedding is what they call it. The lead sponsor on this bill, Representative Butler says Premier is supposed to be a charity. And that's why it has non-profit status, which means it doesn't have to pay a lot of the taxes that most businesses and for profit groups have to. He says, but they're not acting like a charity. They're acting like or for-profit with this decision. He said that Premier Health in fact actually bought Good Sam shortly before closing it because they wanted to make sure that the site could not be used for future hospital uses.
KENNEY: So the battle over Good Sam has largely been a local one but the new proposal from representatives Butler and Strahorn obviously means that it has much larger implications, statewide implications and that seems to be ingrained into some opposition that Republican state Representative Niraj Antani is expressing. Can you elaborate more on his take on this?
FROLIK: He came out strongly against it - his quote "President Barack Obama would be proud of this bill. It increases government control of health care by a staggering amount." I think he was yeah he's quoted saying "the bill may well be named Obamacare 2.0" I would expect this bill to face some pretty stiff opposition from medical providers and medical systems across the state which have pretty big pull. These are big heavy hitter institutions. I do not think they would support putting all these requirements on what happens if they close a hospital. Ohio Hospital Association told me three hospitals closed in Ohio this year. And you know there were others that did service reductions. That same spokesman said that this would be a big financial burden on hospitals at a time when they're already kind of struggling financially and health care costs are rising, and they need to find efficiencies and need to find ways to reduce costs. Premiere health is said this is a very harmful proposal. This bill would interfere with their ability to make decisions to improve care. You know, I think a lot of people, especially on the west side of city would support it, they just don't know if, you know, statewide there's going to be that much support. It's just health care systems have so much pull. You know they're just giant employers and it's hard to say what to expect.
KENNEY: Cory Frolik is reporter for Cox Media Group Ohio. Gary thanks for your reporting and the information today.
FROLIK: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.