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New Senate Bill Could Change How Healthcare Facilities Are Built

District 28 State Senator Matt Brass presented legislation this month that he said if passed, should result in better access to healthcare, better prices for patients and more transparency from healthcare providers.

Brass’s Senate Bill 74 aims to replace the certificate of need process for hospitals with a licensure process that still allows facilities within a 10-mile radius to object to new facilities.

Behavioral health facilities and inpatient drug treatment centers will be exempt from the process.

“Certificate of need is basically a process which gives a medical facility, whether it be an ambulatory surgery center, a hospital or a doctor’s office, if they want to come into existence they have to apply to attain a certificate of need which says that it is needed. The department of Community Health will decide if they want to allow it or not,” said Brass.

Brass said that the certificate of need requirement was put in place to control costs, but has had the opposite effect, because it has limited competition.

“When you limit competition, price goes up and quality goes down. I think where CON has really failed is it got away from protecting the patient and moved to protecting a facility. What we tried to do with this bill is focus more on the patient.”

Locally, the certificate of need process has both helped and hurt Tanner Health System in recent years. Tanner was recently denied a CON for a new open-heart surgery program. An open heart surgery group in Atlanta challenged the need for a new facility in their region. On the other hand, Tanner challenged the need for a new mental health facility in Newnan because Tanner operates Willowbrooke in Villa Rica. That facility’s CON was denied.

“What we are doing is not working. I think what you are going to see with this bill is that hospitals and medical facilities that are run properly and that do a great job, they are going to thrive within this system. And I think that you are going to see the ones that are run poorly and they hide behind CON to limit their competition, those are going to struggle within it.”

The CON process would remain mostly unchanged for long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities under Brass’s bill.

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