In a finding that lifts the odds that the state will approve a controversial $1 billion expansion by Boston Children’s Hospital, a consultant says the project probably won’t drive up medical costs.
Children’s plans to construct an 11-story inpatient building at its campus in the Longwood Medical Area and an eight-story outpatient center in Brookline. Because of the size of the project, public health officials earlier this year required Children’s to hire a consultant to conduct an “independent cost analysis” that examined whether the project was in line with the state’s efforts to control health spending.
The 46-page analysis from Navigant Consulting largely supports hospital officials’ assertions.
“The project is consistent with the Commonwealth’s efforts to meet the health care cost containment goals,” it says. “The project’s short-term and long-term financing are affordable without utilization or pricing changes.”
The expansion will add dozens of new beds where Children’s can treat patients with complex conditions from the Boston area and far beyond. Indeed, the report notes that the hospital’s future growth will come not from local patients, but from patients from other states and countries.
Children’s already has treated rising numbers of patients from the Middle East and other regions of the world. Its share of international patients more than doubled from 2.5 percent of discharges in 2011 to 5.6 percent in 2015, according to the report.
The hospital’s expansion project still needs approval from state public health officials, who review all major clinical construction projects. Officials rarely reject such projects and are expected to consider the Children’s proposal this fall.
Department of Public Health officials said the cost report is “an important element” of the review process and that they are confident in the report’s impartiality.
The Children’s project has faced strong opposition from people upset that it will eliminate the Prouty Garden, a tranquil green space beloved by many patients, families, and hospital employees. Activists fighting to preserve the garden criticized the new cost report.
The project “is supposed to meet a Massachusetts need,” said John Lynch, a health care consultant who works for a taxpayer group opposed to the project and is writing a rebuttal to the Navigant report. “This doesn’t meet a Massachusetts need. There’s no basis for approving this project on that basis alone.”
Prouty Garden supporters are also suing the hospital over its project. That case is pending.
Hospital officials say they need new buildings to meet the needs of patients with rare and complex diseases who can’t get care elsewhere. In response to the backlash over their decision to build over the Prouty Garden, they promised to build new green spaces.
With the project still under state review, Children’s declined to comment beyond saying it was pleased that “the Navigant analysis provides an independent confirmation that the proposed project is consistent with Massachusetts’ efforts to contain health care costs,” spokesman Rob Graham said in an e-mail.
Children’s is among the highest-priced health care providers in the state, but that is not mentioned in the report. The analysis states that because virtually all of the hospital’s expected patient growth will come from out of state, the added costs will be borne by those national and international patients, not by those who reside in Massachusetts.
A Massachusetts state law sets a target for total medical spending increases at 3.6 percent a year. The state met the goal in 2013 but not in 2014. Figures for 2015 are expected to be released next month.