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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senators kill Don Gaetz certificate of need reform



A Senate panel on Wednesday voted down a proposal by the chamber’s past president to cut back a state licensing program called certificate of need.

The bill (SB 1144) by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would have given an exemption from CON to hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and other health care facilities if they provided twice as much charity care as others in their region. The licensing program requires approval from the state Agency for Health Care Administration certifying that there is enough demand in an area before new beds can be built.

Gaetz’ bill is the Senate’s approach to reforming CON, which House Republicans want to eliminate completely in hospitals but keep intact for other health care facilities. It died on a 6-2 vote in the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I’m finding it pretty frightening that most of my friends are opposing this and the Obama administration agrees with me,” Gaetz said.

He cited federal government findings that CON does not increase access to care in areas with low-income populations.

Still, some senators raised concerns that the existing market isn’t ready to support more health facilities opening. Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said she worries that increased competition could lead to hospitals performing fewer procedures.

“Volume, in terms of practice for physicians makes for better quality,” Sobel said. “I believe this upsets the cart.”

The House’s bill to end CON at hospitals (HB 437), sponsored by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, is ready for a floor vote. There is no Senate counterpart.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 5:18pm]


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