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Georgia Senate committee recommends removing certificate of need mandate

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(The Center Square) — A Georgia Senate study committee has recommended lawmakers repeal the state’s certificate of need mandate.

In making the recommendation, state lawmakers pointed to South Carolina, which recently repealed its CON mandate. Georgia lawmakers plan to use the Palmetto State’s approach as a model for potential legislation they will consider when the General Assembly reconvenes for its session next year.

“That’s really the high-level recommendation here,” state Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, said during a Tuesday Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform meeting. “We recognize that may or may not be achievable. If that is not achievable, we thought that it was worthwhile to go ahead and dive a little deeper and make some specific recommendations on ways that we can enhance and improve the current statute.”

If they don’t proceed with a full repeal, the committee adopted several additional recommendations, such as eliminating CON requirements for obstetric services, birth centers and maternal and neonatal care services. They also suggested reforming the law to eliminate the mandatory review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds serving Medicaid patients and uninsured Georgians.

As part of the recommendations, committee members suggested that multi-specialty centers should be permitted, particularly in rural areas, and the state should eliminate the mandate for hospital bed expansion.

“Today, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform took a bold step in the ongoing effort to fully repeal Georgia’s outdated government permission slips that ultimately limit the supply of health care services,” Americans for Prosperity-Georgia State Director Tony West said in a statement. “We are grateful for the Committee’s recommendation and remain hopeful the full Georgia General Assembly will follow the recommendations and pass a full repeal.”

However, the head of a community hospital group questioned the benefits of a repeal.

“Full repeal would compromise patient safety and hospital financial stability,” Monty Veazey, president and CEO of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, told The Center Square via email. “Additionally, testimony before the House CON Study Committee showed that Georgia’s CON program is associated with lower costs for payors and patients.

“The Alliance supports CON modernization and some of the Senate Study Committee’s alternative proposal could be a starting point for a productive discussion that would streamline the CON process without sacrificing patient safety, hospital stability, and lower costs,” Veazey added. “We look forward to working with the legislature to protect quality care, patient access and lower costs.”

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