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Health care law changes begin July 1

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(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s plan to unwind certificate of need, protection of power of attorney rights and several TennCare coverage changes went into effect Monday with the new fiscal year.

TennCare must retain coverage for individuals with disabilities who have employment through a buy-in program, it must cover mental health services at the same rates for alcoholism and drug dependency and it must cover medical expenses for genetic testing to identify treatments for children with rare diseases.

Tennessee lawmakers passed a regulation requiring those with power of attorney to visit a patient in the hospital and participate in medical decisions. The law was meant to combat restrictions put into place during COVID-19 regarding visitation restrictions.

Visitors must adhere to safety protocols but cannot be required to get a vaccination or medical procedure to enter a hospital.

Another new health care law eliminates the requirements of recurring in-person doctor visits for telehealth patients.

The certificate of need law removes CON requirements in counties without an acute care hospital starting July 1, 2025, but begin a 10-mile buffer for competing companies building a new free-standing emergency room.

The law will remove burn units, neonatal intensive care, ICF, IDD (intermediate care for disabilities), PET and MRI facilities from CON on Dec. 1, 2025.

It then removes ambulatory surgical centers, linear accelerators and long-term care hospitals from CON on Dec. 1, 2027 and open-heart surgery centers on Dec. 1, 2029.

“Tennesseans should not need a government permission slip to access health care services,” Americans for Prosperity Tennessee State Director Tori Venable said when the CON reform passed. “Ending Certificate of Need laws is vital for our entire state, especially in rural counties. These reforms increase access to emergency life-saving care and encourage more competition- ultimately leading to lower health care costs for Tennesseans.”

CON laws were mandated by the federal government in 1972 and regulate how many medical facilities are available in an area and what services they provide in an effort to reduce consumer costs.

Even though Congress later eliminated the CON requirement in 1987, many states retained them.

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