Bill to ease Georgia hospital restrictions passes House committee

A bill to open up nonprofit hospitals to much greater competition from the private sector passed a Georgia legislative committee on Monday.

The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care easily approved House Bill 198. It is the broadest of several bills under discussion in the Legislature this year to ease the regualation called Certificate of Need, or CON.

CON tamps down competition, requiring anyone who wants to open or expand hospital-like services to prove that there’s really a need for the new facility. Hospitals see CON as protecting them from private health care businesses that want to cherry-pick their profitable services, and leave them with the money-losers. Health care entrepreneurs see CON as preventing competition and limiting consumer choice.

Within the Atlanta region, HB 198 would eliminate CON except with some long-term care facilities.

Outside the Atlanta region, the bill also eliminate CON, unless the proposed competitor was within 10 miles of an existing hospital. In that case, it would replace CON with a licensing system for proposed new facilities. But to prevent a new facility opening, the burden would now rest on the existing hospitals to show that a new facility opening up is not in the public interest.

In the Senate, Sens. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, Ben Watson, R-Savannah and Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge are working on other bills, SB 74 and SB 114.