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Industry officials urge restraint

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(The Center Square) – Health officials from various Kentucky organizations made their pleas to lawmakers in Frankfort on Monday to not do away with regulations that control how and where health-care providers can open and expand in the state.

The Certificate of Need Task Force is a special committee set up by the General Assembly to review Kentucky’s certificate of need program. It is tasked with determining if there’s any need to amend it for the various types of providers it covers, including hospitals, hospice facilities, home health agencies and skilled-nursing facilities.

Industry officials urged restraint Monday, telling lawmakers that the health care industry does not operate in a free market.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Kentucky is one of 35 states with cerificate of need laws on the books as of the beginning of this year. However, that list includes South Carolina, where the legislature passed a law a couple months ago to repeal most of its regulations. Only nursing homes and the Medical University of South Carolina remain under a certificate of need in that state.

Last week, Americans for Prosperity–Kentucky held a forum to discuss the issue with state Rep. Marianne Proctor, R-Union, who sits on the task force.

“CON laws create government-sponsored monopolies in healthcare,” AFP-KY posted on its Facebook page. “They increase cost and reduce access to healthcare. KY deserves better!”

Proctor, according to a LINK NKY article, is pushing for reforms to spur competition. A first-term lawmaker, Proctor previously worked as a speech pathologist in Texas, which is not a certificate of need state.

“Simply put, skilled-nursing facilities do not set their own prices,” said Betsy Johnson, the president and executive director for the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities. “We are very dependent on government payers, such as Medicaid and Medicare, and it’s not like we can adjust our pricing structure based on competition or lack thereof.”

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, asked if repealing the laws could create “a two-tiered health care delivery system” across the state.

“Because I would imagine that if we eliminate certificate need for home health or any other service that you’re going to have those new agencies that will take the most profitable patients, which are the commercial patients,” said Meredith, a retired hospital executive.

The task force is now seeking public feedback on the certificate of need program. Comments can be submitted by email through Sept. 1.

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