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House Seeks To Eliminate ‘Certificate Of Need’

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Empath Health
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The state’s certificate-of-need regulatory law can, and should, go the way of the dinosaurs, the House sponsor of a repeal bill said. 

Members of the House Heath Market Reform Subcommittee on Thursday agreed and voted unanimously to pass a bill (HB 21), sponsored by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, that would eliminate the certificate-of-need review program effective July 1.

Florida is one of 35 states that have laws designed to require health-care providers to justify the need for certain types of new facilities and services.

Some Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, have argued that such regulations unnecessarily drive up health-care costs by artificially restricting the market. They also maintain the state should take more of a “free market” approach to health care.

While eliminating certificate of need for hospices, it would put restrictions on hospice providers. The bill would require any hospice built after July 1 to also maintain a freestanding facility that provides inpatient services.

Fitzenhagen, R- Fort Myers, called hospice unique and said that the requirement wasn’t about limiting competition but “to make sure the quality of care” is at a high standard. “You don’t have an opportunity to change providers, if you will.

When you are in a nursing home or a hospital and perhaps you’re not getting the care you would want then, you are able to change and try to remedy that situation,” she said. “Hospice is so unique because it’s for a short amount of time, and there’s no way for a family member to deduce ahead of time whether or not his provider is going to give them the level of care until it’s over.”

Molly McKinstry, a deputy secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, testified last month that most new hospitals have gone through the state’s current certificate-of-need process without getting bogged down in regulatory fights. Those fights, which often include hearings before administrative law judges, can drag out for one to two years.