Wellness: The COPA debate

Sen. Jim Davis isn’t out to make Mission Health System close its doors, he told Xpress in a recent interview. “I wouldn’t do anything knowingly to harm Mission. It’s critical to Western North Carolina,” said the Republican state senator, acknowledging the company’s position as a major health-service provider and a major employer in the region.

But Davis has proposed a bill that puts a lid on the hospital’s acquisitions, restricts the number of local doctors it employs and otherwise aims to break what Davis claims is a “legal monopoly.” The bill has drawn criticism from Mission CEO Ron Paulus, who told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the legislation lacks common sense and that, if the bill passed, ”Mission would ultimately … shut its doors.”

That’s an exaggeration, Davis told Xpress. Two issues stand behind his proposal, he explained: A February study highlighting potential problems with the 1995 Certificate of Public Advantage agreement that allowed Mission and St. Joseph hospitals to merge, and Mission’s pending partnership with Angel Medical Center in Franklin, the heart of Davis’ home district.

The February report concludes that, under the COPA, Mission may have an incentive to increase prices and costs; other health providers may be at a disadvantage when Mission expands into nearby areas, says Davis. “I’m not accusing Mission of anything, [but] these are valid concerns. [We] just need to look at it.”

In response to the bill, Mission Health System released a “State of Mission” document that outlines its economic impact on Western North Carolina, the services it offers and its interpretation of the COPA (see mountainx.com/xpressfiles for the full document):

“Mission accounts for about one in every 16 jobs in the Buncombe-Madison area, representing about 6.3 percent of overall employment in the two-county area and about one in every 39 jobs in the 18-county region. … Mission Health System generates about $963 million of economic activity in the Buncombe-Madison local economy, representing about 5.9 percent of the overall economic activity to the local economy. Said another way, $1 in every $17 of economic activity in the two-county area can be attributed to Mission,” according to one section of the document.

Davis acknowledges the economic assessment. But, he says, given the current challenges in health care, there’s no question that small hospitals, clinics and practitioners will be looking for partners and ways to share or cut costs. But there should be a collaborative process, not one that gives Mission an unfair advantage, he insists. His bill is a first step in reviewing the 15-year-old COPA and its overall impact on health care in WNC, Davis says.

“We need Mission to be strong, [and] the older I get, the more important it is to me that [it] survive. But we also need to maintain competition.”
To view the full bill, the COPA study and Mission’s statement, go to http://bit.ly/igQ2u7.

North Buncombe Elementary gets fit

What do a Flash Mob Dance and physical fitness have in common? On May 4, North Buncombe Elementary used the former to kick off its take on National Physical Fitness and Sports Week.

Each May, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education encourages schools and parents to help children explore a wide variety of physical activities to determine what they like, and encourages them to participate in those activities on a regular basis, say organizers.

Almost half of young people ages 12 to 21 — and more than a third of high-school students — do not participate in vigorous physical activity on a regular basis, a contributing factor to obesity over a lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "Keeping children and teens physically active is one of the biggest challenges in society today," says Debbie Bryant, healthful living coordinator for Buncombe County Schools.

This year, the national theme is "Let's Move in School," NASPE's public initiative to ensure every school provides a comprehensive school physical activity program, with quality physical education as the foundation. NASPE recommends that schools and families incorporate at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity into each child's daily routine.

"Quality physical education programs can contribute to students' regular participation in physical activity and can increase moderate to vigorous physical activity. The challenge is to help students identify a sport or activity that he or she enjoys as much as watching television or playing computer games," says NASPE President Lynn Couturier, of SUNY Cortland.

NASPE also suggests that parents limit the amount of time their children spend in front of the television or computer to less than two hours a day.
Activities and other resources teachers and parents can use during National Physical Education and Sport Week can be found on the NASPE website, www.naspeinfo.org. For more information on Let's Move in School, visit www.LetsMoveInSchool.org.

— Send your health-and-wellness news to mxhealth@mountainx.com or news@mountainx.com, or call News Editor Margaret Williams at 251-1333, ext. 152.

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About Margaret Williams
Managing Editor Margaret Williams has been at Xpress since 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987.

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