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CON Reform Bill Advances in Florida Legislature

February 8, 2018

The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill that would eliminate certificate of need (CON) requirements for hospitals.

The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill that would eliminate certificate of need (CON) requirements for hospitals.

House Bill 27 (H.B. 27) would exempt hospitals from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s CON program regulating the supply of health care services. Other providers, such as ambulatory surgical centers and medical imaging centers, would remain subject to government control.

H.B. 27 was approved by the Florida House in January 25 and later referred to the state Senate’s Appropriations, Health Policy, and Rules Committees for consideration.

Nanny, May I?         

Skylar Zander, deputy state director for Americans for Prosperity’s Florida chapter, says CON laws make government the gatekeeper deciding who can help people.

“It’s a permission slip from the government to open up and operate [a hospital], in order to help Floridians,” Zander said.

Instead of improving health care, CON laws establish a health care cartel, Zander says.

“What it’s done is create a monopoly for the hospital industry, which has given hospitals and other health care facilities the ability to raise costs on health care products and procedures, almost unchecked by competition,” Zander said.

Opening Up Markets

Zander says removing the CON requirement will promote public health.

“Floridians endure some of the highest health care costs,” Zander said. “By doing away with certificate of need laws, it will open up markets for competition and push prices down. A free-market approach like ending certificates of need will allow for more competition and, ultimately, better health care outcomes and higher quality.”

Promoting Competition for Care

State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Meyers), the bill’s sponsor, says H.B. 27 will use free-market principles to improve health care.

“Eliminating the certificate of need will have the impact of providing more choices for people seeking medical care and will drive down the price of medical care, because there will be a more competitive marketplace,” Fitzenhagen said.

More choices spur more competition and better service, Fitzenhagen says.

“When people are competing for someone’s business, they tend to do their very best to provide their service at the best price and quality, because they are trying to compete for a finite number of people,” Fitzenhagen said. “That will create a better health care environment for everyone. The very nature of competition in a free market provides us with better products, lower-cost products, and a greater variety and availability of the product.”

Other Reforms in Play

Florida legislators are considering other bills that would get government out of the health care business, Fitzenhagen says.

“This is just one of many different things we are doing in the state of Florida in order to provide better health care,” Fitzenhagen said. “I am also the cosponsor on another bill that would allow ambulatory surgery centers to stay open for longer hours, in order to meet the needs of people who are undergoing elective surgeries, rather than having to go home with less observation and less care. It’s another way that we are giving patients options.”

Author
Savannah Edgens writes from Gainesville, Florida.
savannah.edgens@gmail.com