Money is no object for $1.1 billion Boston Children’s Hospital expansion plan

How many millions of dollars is Boston Children's Hospital already diverting from patient care to spend on advertising, lobbying and PR to get its $1 billion expansion plan approved by state regulators? It’s no secret that TV, radio and print ads at the height of an election season aren't cheap. This monument to medical excess needs to be scaled back to fit the genuine space needs of the hospital.

In the wake of the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) staff recommendation to approve Boston Children’s Hospital’s planned $1 billion expansion, a growing chorus of opposition is voicing concerns that the expansion will boost healthcare costs throughout the state, and should be roundly rejected or cut back to a more reasonable size.

The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, an advocacy group of 50 religious organizations, and the Massachusetts Association of Health Insurers joined the state’s Health Policy Commission, a state-established watchdog group, in warning that Children’s expansion could “increase spending by an estimated $8.5 million to $18.1 million a year for patients on commercial health insurance.” The commission was also concerned that Children’s, which already has the highest hospital prices in the state, could put other pediatric hospitals in the state out of business.

These groups’ concerns are significant and warranted and are only compounded by the manner in which Children's shed its lower-income patients insured through Neighborhood Health Plan earlier this year. Moreover, the hospital is willing to destroy the Prouty Garden - a beloved, historic, outdoor healing space - in order to attract high-rolling patients from overseas with a shiny new building.

The DPH staff supported the expansion on the condition that Children’s not pass on the cost of the project to patients and insurers and that it not reduce accessibility of the hospital to Massachusetts patients. The hospital’s compliance with these requirements would, presumably, be evaluated using reports provided by the hospital on where patients are coming from.

Left unresolved: how will that unrealistic condition be enforced?