Miller lying about Hospital Funding in Prince George’s County

According to the Washington Post, Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker Mike Busch are working on a bill that will mandate Gov. Hogan fund the new hospital project in Prince George’s County.  These two claim that Hogan cut off the funding for the hospital, even though he funded it last year.

A proposed regional hospital center in Prince George’s County is at the center of a budget spat between Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the leaders of the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said Tuesday that since Hogan chose not to include $15 million for the hospital in his $42.3 billion budget proposal, he will introduce legislation this week requiring the state to make the payment. He has at least 30 sponsors and support from House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

Miller said he was frustrated by Hogan’s unwillingness to appropriate the funds, which would help to provide quality healthcare to residents of Prince George’s County.

At best, Miller is misleading the public about the hospital funding; at worst, he is outright lying.  The Post story continued with this explanation:

Matthew Clark, a spokesman for Hogan, said there was a five-year agreement to send additional funds to Dimensions Healthcare System, which runs Prince George’s Hospital Center and other facilities across the county. That agreement ended last year, he said.

This year, Hogan included $27.5 million in capital funds to build a new regional hospital in the county.

This means that the $15 million that Sen. Miller wants to force the state to spend, was actually not earmarked for the new hospital at all.  It was a payment the state had been sending to Dimensions Healthcare System, a privately owned non-profit, to subsidize the company. The new hospital project, a joint venture with the University of MD Medical System, is funded, to the tune of $27 million dollars! The new medical center in Largo is due to replace another of Dimensions’s facilities in Cheverly.  Dimensions is also currently looking to sell or close the Laurel Hospital, because it is losing $15 – $20 million a year, however the local SEIU and even some lawmakers have inserted themselves into the decision, making it hard for Dimensions to find a buyer.

If you read further into the Washington Post piece, you find this information:

Thomas Himler, a deputy chief administrative officer for Prince George’s County, said if Prince George’s Hospital Center doesn’t receive the subsidy it could jeopardize its chances of receiving a certificate of need.

“It’s going to be hard to get approved,” he said. “All the assumptions on our rates are premised on the subsidies.”
The subsidy money is being used to not only sustain the system but make improvements at the three Dimensions-run facilities in Cheverly, Bowie and Laurel, which is a requirement for the certificate of need.

This means that the certificate of need, the hearing for which has been postponed until April, is based on the artificially low rates Dimensions has been charging because of the state and county subsidies they’ve been receiving.  The way Himler puts it, it seems the hospital may not get approval if Dimensions has to raise its rates to something more realistic for the services offered.  Considering there is a comparable health center a mere 6 miles away, albeit across county lines, it seems like a rather foolish spot for a new hospital.  So why is County Executive Baker and Senator Mike Miller working together to push so hard for this project?

The Largo Medical Center is at the center of all Baker’s plans to reinvigorate Largo.

Later phases would bring more medical offices, a nursing home, hotels and more housing around it, officials say, touting the project as a driver for economic development promising to revive the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, which has struggled for years to fill and keep storefronts open.

The hospital project could spur $3 billion in economic activity for Prince George’s, according to a recent report that suggests it could help build a mixed-use development around the Largo Town Center Metro station that includes about 3 million square feet of commercial space, nearly 1 million square feet of retail, 653 hotel rooms, a 150-bed nursing home and more than 4,000 residential units.

That metro station is currently severely under utilized. The hope is that the medical center would bring in more foot traffic, which would bring in more business.  It’s a “Field of Dreams” scenario, “If you build it, they will come.” Except this isn’t Hollywood, and there is no surefire guarantee that any of the good stuff Baker wants for that area will happen. The only guarantee is that without the medical center, nothing Baker foresees for the area will come anywhere close to reality.  Without the medical center revitalizing Largo, Baker loses his only leverage for moving the county seat to Largo.

Seems the county has been buying up land in Largo, and Himler says the county got a great deal “because of the depressed county real estate market.” He expects property values in the area to skyrocket once the medical center is there, so we had to buy this property now.  I guess the county is using it’s inside information on upcoming projects to engage in some land speculation. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the building Baker wants to move the county government into is within walking distance of the metro station.  That’s just so it would be easier for people to get to the county offices. It has nothing to do with the fact that he lives within walking distance to a metro station in Cheverly, or that Largo is closer to his home than Upper Marlboro.  Nope, none of that factors in to his decisions at all. It’s all purely just based speculation that the medical center will be approved, and will bring in the business needed to revitalize the area.

So how did I get from Senator Mike Miller misleading or outright lying about hospital funding, to County Executive Baker trying to move the county seat of operations to Largo?  That’s just the way things work out here in Prince George’s County. Everything is connected. You start down on trail, and soon find yourself trapped in a massive maze of corruption, cronyism, obfuscation, and confusion.  But don’t you worry. Sen. Miller is going to force the state to subsidize a private non-profit healthcare agency, and he’s going to do his best to confuse everyone about the true purpose of the funding, all while blaming the governor.

It should have been in the governor’s budget this year but since it wasn’t, we’re going to move forward and suggest that it be taken care of immediately.

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