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House OKs bill to eliminate CON for hospitals

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A House healthcare subcommittee moved a bill to eliminate “certificates of need” for all hospital services. The bill does not eliminate CON for nursing homes or hospices where there has been a flurry of interest after a long-time moratorium on the construction of new nursing home beds was lifted.

HB 31A was opposed by the Florida Hospital Association, whose lobbyist Bill Bell testified that most states still maintain CON for hospitals and, more specifically, the states surrounding Florida have CON regulation for hospitals.

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville lobbyist Layne Smith testified that Mayo Clinic Jacksonville supports the elimination of CON for tertiary services but that it is “neutral” on eliminating the CON requirements for new facility construction.

The James Madison Institute’s Sal Nuzzo testified in favor of the bill and when asked whether it would support eliminating the requirement for nursing homes and hospices he said  “under the right conditions, right language, right situations,” JMI would “potentially be in favor” of  deregulating nursing homes and hospice.

Committee member state Rep. Hazel Rogers said she was concerned that the bill did not have provisions to ensure quality health care. When assured that the changes would promote quality, she said she would consider supporting the bill.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Jason Brodeur. It is the first time that either the House or the Senate has discussed the CON program, a regulatory licensure process that is meant to control costs and maintain quality services. However, there has been a change in philosophy among legislative and executive leadership and the program is considered a regulatory barrier that eliminates competition and protects facilities that have gotten CON approval from the state.

Speaking in support of the measure, state Rep. Jose Oliva said he understands the concerns about the uninsured because he grew up without insurance. But he told committee members that keeping CON just ensures healthcare monopolies.

Oliva told the committee “there is nowhere known where monopolies create quality.”

The bill was approved by the panel by a vote of nine to three.

The CON bill  is considered the first piece of the House healthcare package of bills meant to control costs and make healthcare pricing more transparent.

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