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Hospital Regulatory Bill Continues Through House

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With the bill sponsor calling certificates of need a "sacred cow" in the health-care industry, a House panel Tuesday approved a proposal to repeal the controversial regulatory process for building hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee voted 9-5 to approve a repeal bill (HB 7), sponsored by Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, that is backed by House leaders. The longstanding certificate-of-need process requires approval from the state Agency for Health Care Administration before hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities can be built.

Miller said the process prevents competition and affects access to care, describing it as a "sacred cow" for already-existing health facilities that oppose the bill.

"The time to repeal is now," Miller said.

But opponents argue, in part, that eliminating the certificate-of-need process would lead to new facilities that would siphon patients from existing providers, lowering occupancy rates and hurting quality of care.

For example, Cathy Adkison, president and CEO of Big Bend Hospice, which serves Leon County and six rural counties, said the market would be "cannibalized" by more providers.

"The same market size will be cut into many small pieces," Adkison said. She also said new providers would focus on serving the more heavily populated Leon County while not serving outlying rural areas.