Georgia bill to replace certificate of need advances

The debate over certificate of need requirements for hospitals and health centers in Georgia continues after lawmakers advanced a tweaked proposal for a less restrictive license, according to a Feb. 21 report in The Georgia Sun.

Certificate of need legislation, passed by Georgia in 1979, requires applicants wishing to build a new hospital or offer a new medical service to demonstrate a need for it in the community. 

Conservatives and legislative Republicans have long advocated for a complete repeal of the law, while hospitals and health systems maintain removing it would allow physician owners to set up surgery centers close to hospitals and siphon off patients as a result.

A new version of a bill designed to completely repeal the certificate of need law aims to ensure Georgia hospitals with the highest concentration of Medicaid patients or patients without insurance would no longer have to bear the financial burden of uncompensated care. Under federal law, full-service hospitals must treat every patient regardless of their ability to pay, a  key argument in favor of keeping the current legislation.

The tweaked bill, which passed a state senate committee by one vote, would establish a "special healthcare service" license for such hospitals as opposed to maintaining the certificate of need requirement, the report said.

Certificate of need advocates said they would consider the new bill while remaining concerned about its current form. CON opponents described the bill as "transformative."

"CON is an outdated law," said Jesse Weathington, president of the Georgia Association of Health Plans. "It was sold as a cost saving metric. It has failed."

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