ACA fuels construction boom

Hospital construction has been in a boom mode for some years now, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is apparently prompting even smaller players to get into the action, Crain's Chicago Business reports.

St. Bernard Hospital, a small facility on the city's economically straitened South Side, will invest $33 million for a new 70,000 square-foot outpatient center and medical offices, according to the article. St Bernard's had scrapped rebuilding its hospital just a few years prior due to the Great Recession.

St. Bernard's decision to roll the dice and build is one of the collateral changes caused by the ACA, according to Crain's Chicago. More insured patients means they also have the options to obtain their care in more places. As a result, in an era where a new hospital can cost more than $1 billion, those safety net facilities with a shopworn infrastructure may have little choice but to spruce up.

"When patients can go anywhere, they may not choose the facility that's deteriorating," Robert Kaestner, a healthcare economist and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Crain's. "They need a more competitive framework to meet the challenge of a better-insured population that has more choices now."

In addition to the new construction, officials with St. Bernard said they also planned to improve their operating rooms and emergency department.

Hospitals elsewhere in the U.S. are also focused on building to remain competitive but not to bust their budgets. For example, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey will spend $90 million on new construction, including a new cancer center that officials say reflects the aging of the surrounding population. In Ohio, Mount Carmel St. Ann in Westerville will spend $120 million not only for patient care upgrades, but for amenities such as coffee bars and a stone fireplace in a renovated main entrance area. Officials hope the new construction will boost patient satisfaction scores--and perhaps prompt patients with more choices to show up time and time again.

To learn more:
- read the Crain's Chicago Business article