House Likely To Revive Surgery Center Debate

After the Senate blocked the idea this year, the House likely will renew a push in 2016 to let patients stay overnight at ambulatory-surgical centers and could again seek to open the door for longer-term recovery centers.

House Health & Human Services Chairman Jason Brodeur on Wednesday told a health care panel formed by Gov. Rick Scott that he expects the House to look again at trying to pass an ambulatory-surgical center bill. That issue has been part of a collection of proposals that House Republican leaders say would provide more choices to patients --- and potentially reduce health care costs.

"I think one of the overall themes that you're going to hear … is that there's a lack of access because we don't understand as consumers what the costs are. We don't have any choice,'' Brodeur, R-Sanford, said "And so anywhere we can continue to give the consumer choice, a little bit more choice, a little bit more access, that's going to continue to peel back the layers of the onion so that we can get to someplace that --- although we know health care is a regulated market, it will never truly be a free market --- it will at least be a freer market, which will allow us to better control costs."

Under state law, patients are required to be discharged from ambulatory-surgical centers on the same day they undergo procedures, which typically include such things as colonoscopies and eye surgeries. The House during a June special session approved a bill that would have allowed patients to stay at the centers for up to 24 hours.

Also, the bill (HB 23A) would have allowed the creation of "recovery care centers," where patients could stay for up to 72 hours after surgery. Florida does not currently issue licenses to such recovery facilities.

The Senate did not take up the House bill amid months of battling between the two chambers about health-care issues. Also, parts of the hospital industry opposed the House bill, raising concerns about issues such as profitable services being siphoned from hospitals to the other types of facilities.

Brodeur, who is a key player in the House's health-policy proposals, made a presentation Wednesday to Scott's Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which gathered at the Capitol as part of a series of meetings across the state.

The commission has not issued recommendations but members appear to support at least some of the House's ideas for revamping the health care system. Members repeatedly returned to the idea Wednesday of making the health-care system more transparent, which is similar to the House's approach.

Also, members raised questions about what are known as "certificates of need," a state regulatory process that helps determine where hospitals and other types of health facilities can be built or expanded. The House this year proposed eliminating the so-called CON process for hospitals, though the Senate did not go along.

"I'm a free-enterprise kind of guy, and I don't understand it (certificates of need),'' commission member Tom Kuntz said at one point during the meeting.

Brodeur said other states have eliminated certificates of need and "the sun rises and sets and those folks get care." He also suggested that getting rid of certificates of need for hospitals could be a first step in a "glide path" toward also getting rid of the process for other types of Florida health-care facilities.