Will Dallas' New Children's Hospitals Compete on Price Or Amenities?

Cook Children’s of Fort Worth is confident that its new children’s hospital in Prosper will be welcomed, even if the area north of Dallas becomes saturated with new pediatric facilities.“We don’t believe employers or insurance companies would ever object to competition in the marketplace,” a Cook official wrote in an email last week.That Texas value is often reflected in the state’s light approach to regulation. Texas does not require a “certificate of need” to build a hospital, for example, choosing to let the market sort things out.But all health care competition is not equal, not in a region with high medical costs and large swaths of the population living without health insurance.“No one’s gonna complain about price competition,” said Devon Herrick, a Dallas health economist and former hospital accountant. “But employers and insurers don’t want hospitals competing on marble atriums and birthing suites — and machines that aren’t necessary.”He points to the fast growth of free-standing emergency rooms in Texas. Many believed they would bring greater access for patients and more competition for traditional hospitals, and hundreds popped up. But most were in affluent areas and had high, out-of-network prices, and many customers felt burned.“Did they really fill an unmet need, or would we have been better off expanding doctors' office hours or adding more urgent-care centers?” Herrick said.  Continue reading...

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