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House Moves To Strike Hospital CONstruction Regulations

Just days after the Florida House of Representatives killed a Senate plan to expand Medicaid to more low-income Floridians, the upper chamber is taking up the House’s healthcare proposal. But Senate leaders say the House plans are a long-shot.

A House healthcare committee has advanced a plan to get rid of regulations dictating where hospitals can be built. The program is called, “certificate of need” and its premise is a hospital or other healthcare facility should be built when there’s a need in a community. Rep. Representative Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, thinks the process is outdated, and hinders competition.

“Because Capital costs are so high in healthcare facilities, it is thought that limiting those expenditures you’ll will put a cap on expenses. However, whether or not CON accomplishes this is in question. Various studies indicate CON programs do not reduce costs.”

Brodeur says 22 other states have dropped their certificate of Need or CON rules. The program is getting targeted by Governor Rick Scott, who believes more competition, not regulation, is what drives down costs. But Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, says eliminating the regulation could also hinder access to uninsured and poor patients.

“The elimination of certificate of need could result in care gaps for the less affluent, the rural areas and the inner city communities. The market forces simply won’t encourage competition for the uninsured. That’s just the way this works.”

Many of the House healthcare proposals are now before the Senate. The chamber is still simmering over a house vote that killed its top priority—Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Senate President Andy Gardiner says the House bills don’t meet the senate’s desire to see more people insured, "but we’ll give them their due and if they’re good policy and they make good sense, we’ll move them."

Lawmakers continue haggling over how to fill a $1 billion  hole in the state’s healthcare budget, after receiving word that a joint federal-state program reimbursing hospitals for treating uninsured patients, is being cut. Governor Rick Scott is suing the federal government claiming it’s using the low-income pool to coerce the state into expanding Medicaid.  But a federal judge has rejected Scott’s motion for mediation, noting an expedited hearing is set for next week.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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