Only 10 states require government review before a hospital can shut down

Hospitals in most states can close or scale back services without government review, allowing health services to disappear from some areas without giving local residents the chance to weigh in.

MergerWatch, which analyzes the hospital industry and opposes faith-based healthcare restrictions, surveyed healthcare statutes and regulations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found only 10 states require government review before a hospital closes or discontinues services: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Only nine require consumer representation on the reviewing body that decides whether hospitals can merge, downsize or close.

"In a number of states, there is no oversight at all. So hospitals are just doing what makes business sense for them," Lois Uttley, one of the report's co-authors and the director of MergerWatch, told ProPublica. "Someone needs to be looking out for the patients and the community."

Christine Khaikin, a co-author of the report, told ProPublica that MergerWatch's work is "a jumping off point" to "open the eyes of legislators and policymakers that the regulation of hospital transactions is not inherently bad."

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