Mea­sure opens up hospi­tal com­pe­ti­tion

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO | OBITUARIES - By Ariel Hart [email protected]

A long-ex­pected bill to lift re­stric­tions on pri­vate com­pe­ti­tion for hos­pi­tals’ best cus­tomers has been filed in the state House.

The mea­sure, House Bill 198, was filed by state Rep. Matt Hatch­ett, R-Dublin, chair­man of the House ma­jor­ity cau­cus.

Fol­low­ing the lead of a House study com­mit­tee, HB 198 takes a broad swipe at the re­stric­tions known as cer­tifi­cate of need, or CON.

Cer­tifi­cate of need is a reg­u­la­tion that is aimed at pro­tect­ing the bot­tom lines of pub­lic hos­pi­tals. Such hos­pi­tals say pri­vate health busi­nesses want to cherry-pick their prof­itable ser­vices, such as bone surgery or can­cer treat­ment, and leave them with the money losers, in­clud­ing car­ing for those who can’t pay.

CON reg­u­la­tions say that if some­one wants to open a new med­i­cal fa­cil­ity, the state must first cer­tify that there’s ac­tu­ally a need for it that isn’t al­ready be­ing served by other hos­pi­tals. En­trepreneurs say they’re blocked from in­no­va­tion by CON, and that pa­tients are de­prived of choice. Hos­pi­tals say CON is vi­tal to keep­ing them sol­vent.

Ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary of HB 198 made pub­lic Thurs­day, it would elim­i­nate CON en­tirely, giv­ing new health busi­nesses free rein to pop up. Re­stric­tions for longterm care fa­cil­i­ties would re­main in place, though. The en­tire bill should be made pub­lic shortly and is likely to run dozens of pages with ad­di­tional de­tails about ex­emp­tions and pro­tec­tions.

“The hospi­tal com­mu­nity strongly op­poses the elim­i­na­tion of the cer­tifi­cate of need process,” said Ethan James, the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for ex­ter­nal af­fairs at the Ge­or­gia Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion. “We can sup­port a thought­ful and mea­sured mod­ern­iza­tion of CON, but we ob­ject to re­peal­ing the en­tire state health plan­ning process.”

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