Health Industry Regulatory Changes Sail In House

Jan 13, 2016

A House panel Tuesday quickly approved two high-profile bills that would revamp health-care regulations --- and are drawing opposition from at least parts of the hospital industry.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee approved a measure (HB 437), filed by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, that would eliminate the "certificate of need" regulatory process for hospitals. That process requires hospitals to get state approval for building or expanding facilities and for adding certain programs.

House Republican leaders contend such a change could lead to more competition and choices for patients.

But two key hospital-industry groups, the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, have indicated opposition.

At least part of the concern is that new hospitals would draw insured patients who might otherwise seek profitable services from existing hospitals.

Also, the House panel approved a measure (HB 85), filed by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, that would ease a major regulation on ambulatory-surgical centers and allow the creation of what are known as "recovery care centers." Currently, patients cannot stay overnight at ambulatory surgical centers, but the bill would allow them to stay up to 24 hours.

Also, it would allow the operation of recovery care centers, where patients could stay up to 72 hours. Fitzenhagen said the bill would extend the time patients can get the best possible care.

But hospitals are concerned, at least in part, that the changes could lead to funneling surgical patients away from hospitals, which would be left providing services such as emergency care.