CON repeal clears Georgia House committee

A committee in the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation Monday that would overhaul the state’s health-care planning process.

The bill, passed by the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, would replace Georgia’s decades-old certificate of need law (CON) governing proposals to build new health-care facilities or provide new health services with a new licensing process supporters say would be less restrictive and take less time to process.

The legislation is backed by physicians wishing to own and operate freestanding single- and multi-specialty centers that have found it difficult to obtain certificates of need from the state because of opposition from nearby hospitals.

While supporters say relaxing the rules governing new construction of health-care centers would increase access to quality health care, particularly in rural Georgia, hospital executives say competition from privately owned health facilities not legally required to treat patients regardless of ability to pay would drive rural hospitals out of business.

The committee approved two amendments to the bill on Monday. One would make it easier to challenge license applications submitted by physician-owners of specialty centers by reducing the burden of proof for existing hospitals from “clear and convincing evidence” they would suffer harm if a new facility were allowed to open nearby to “a preponderance of evidence.”

The other change would help physician-owners of freestanding specialty centers by letting them count indigent care they provide in settings outside their center – including at hospitals – toward the amount of indigent care the legislation would require them to perform at the center.

Before Monday’s vote, Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, noted that similar legislation is now before the Georgia Senate, making it likely the proposed repeal of CON will undergo many changes before the bill comes up for final passage.

“This is the beginning of this process,” he said. “I suspect this will get much scrubbing as it moves through.”

Several Democrats voted against the bill in the committee, making it clear it will need significant support from Republicans to make it through the General Assembly.

The CON repeal could reach the full House later this week.

By Dave Williams – Staff Writer, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Feb 25, 2019

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