Superior Court Judge Jim Blanchard Jr. made the right call this past week when he ruled in favor of the Medical College of Georgia Physicians Practice Group Foundation in its quest to build a day-surgery center near the fast-growing Greenbrier area.
The project is being challenged by University Health Services and Doctors Hospital Surgery Center. While those companies are competitors with each other, they're bedfellows in the suit against MCG in an attempt to prevent PPG from setting up shop in Columbia County.
University and Doctors already have a presence here - especially University, with its large campus in the Evans area and the Brandon Wilde retirement community. It's understandable that they'd want to keep the lucrative Columbia County market to themselves.
It's even more understandable that MCG and PPG would work to obtain a foothold here. But pardon us for chuckling at the way they have to go about it.
Because of the state's horribly anti-competitive Certificate of Need law, which requires medical facilities to get state approval before they expand, PPG had to find a way to get state approval.
Voila: Poor people.
PPG contends that its proposed 65,000-square-foot ambulatory surgery center is needed to help serve poor and low-income residents. The problem? As reported last week, Columbia County has by far the lowest poverty rate in the entire Augusta area - 5.7 percent, compared to Augusta's 24.6 percent.
The reality is that the medical community is beating a path to Columbia County for the same reason Willie Sutton famously robbed banks: Because this is where the money is. But because of state meddling in the free market, PPG has to scrounge up some poor people to shore up its case for coming here - even if it means borrowing them from Lincoln County to make the numbers look better.
Such shenanigans wouldn't be necessary if the state would just get out of the way and let competition in the free market do its job. In any event, however, we welcome MCG and PPG to Columbia County. We'll try not to look too well-off.
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