Nursing Homes and Hospice centers scored a key victory Thursday. A House Health Committee has approved a bill that would remove regulations on where certain healthcare facilities, excluding nursing and hospice, can be built.
It’s part of a years-long effort to overhaul what’s called Certificate of Need: the rules that govern where and when healthcare facilities can be built. The issue goes back decades. Literally. Sal Nuzzo with the libertarian-leaning James Madison Institute, says Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama agreed on one thing: a reduction in certificate of need rules.
“Regardless of whether your political persuasions lead you to revere 'the Gipper' or 'No Drama Obama', I implore you to take the first step to bringing real market forces to bear in the healthcare arena," Nuzzo says.
Two different presidents. Two different eras. Same conclusion. Florida is among more than 30 states that still have certificate of need laws on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The original proposal before the legislature would have removed those rules for nursing homes, hospice centers and hospitals. But Sarasota Republican Representative Alec Miller amended her House Bill 7 Thursday to remove the limits only for hospitals, leaving them in place for nursing homes and hospice facilities.
The Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and hospice centers, pushed for the exemption. The organization argues creating nursing and hospice centers in places they aren’t needed results in an overall drop in occupancy, which could end up costing the state more money than it would save.
"FHCA is thankful to the bill sponsor, Rep. Alex Miller (R-Sarasota), for removing nursing centers from the Certificate of Need deregulation bill. We appreciate Rep. Miller listening to our concerns about how deregulating nursing center CON would have resulted in unmanaged growth, lower occupancy rates and ultimately, put resident quality care at risk," said FHCA Executive Director Emmitt Reed in a written statement,
The state overhauled certificate of need laws in 2014 for nursing homes, and the FHCA says since then, more than 30 new facilities have been built. Health committee chairman Travis Cummings tried to needle a support statement from the FHCA, but the association's lobbyist held firm, reiterating the group's support for Miller's amendment.
As it stands now, only hospitals would be exempt from the certificate of need rules. That’s supported by Governor Rick Scott. However, the issue could be dead in the water. A Senate companion bill hasn’t gotten any hearings so far.