South Carolina is rolling back hospital regulations. But rural areas could be left behind

A South Carolina law rolling back much of the state's certificate-of-need law could lead to a spike in hospital projects, but rural communities might not see benefits, the Post and Courier reported May 21. 

Gov. Henry McMaster signed the bill into law May 17, and it will scale back the state's certificate-of-need law in phases, according to the report. The certificate-of-need law requires state approval for new hospitals and other healthcare facilities, significant changes in the number of beds, or purchasing expensive new equipment. 

Starting July 1, many of the restrictions come off surgery centers and other facilities that provide healthcare services outside a hospital setting, according to the report. Restrictions on new hospitals and adding new beds will continue until Jan. 1, 2027. 

Based on the experiences in other states, eliminating these restrictions has not resulted in increased investments in rural counties, according to the report. Texas, which has not had certificate-of-need laws since the mid-1980s, leads the country in rural hospital closings. Texas has had at least 60 closures since that time, though some have been replaced with a freestanding emergency department or reopened with limited services.

Thornton Kirby, CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association, told the news outlet it is likely to see much more investment in healthcare facilities in the biggest growth markets, the urban centers. It is not likely to "spur a great deal of healthcare investment in a lot of the really poor counties where there is no hospital currently."

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