Thursday, May 6, 2021

TN Legislature Takes Steps To Lift Restrictions Limiting Access To Quality, Affordable Healthcare

The Tennessee Conservative, May 6, 2021- On May 5, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill that will reform state laws surrounding Certificate of Need for healthcare providers. 

A Certificate of Need, CON, is a permit that can establish a healthcare institute or facility in a designated location. It is also used when modifying an existing establishment. 

House Bill 948 “increases from 15 to 30 days the period in which a party or any member of the health services and development agency may file a notice to request the agency review an action of the executive director.” 

The CON reform bill passed with a 30-1 vote. It is sponsored by Representative Clark Boyd, while companion Senate Bill 1281 is sponsored by Senator Shane Reeves.  

“In my eight-county district, we had four of our seven hospitals close in the last decade,” Senator Page Walley said during the May 5 session. “To say the least, that put an extraordinary burden on our citizens for obtaining healthcare. When I was running one of the primary issues was ‘what can we do to reopen access to hospital services for our people?’ One of the impediments that we ran into had to do with obtaining a Certificate of Needs so my first piece of legislation that I brought had to do with just this; how can we expedite obtaining, or eliminate the need to obtain, a CON for rural hospitals which have closed and now we need to reopen.” 

According to the state’s health department, “Tennessee’s CON program seeks to deliver improvement in access, quality and cost savings through orderly growth management of the state’s health care system. The Division of Health Planning is charged with setting the standards and criteria for granting a CON in the State Health Plan. The Health Services Development Agency (HSDA) decides whether to grant or deny a CON using the standards and criteria.” 

Since the 1990s, the state’s certificate of need laws has prevented over 100 hospitals and ambulatory services from opening. The passage of this bill will streamline the CON process for healthcare facilities across the state. 

The Tennessee branch of Americans for Prosperity commended the Senate for passing HB 948. AFP-TN has been at the forefront of advocating for health care reforms. Last year, the grassroots group ran a robust ad and mail campaign in support of certificate of need and telemedicine reforms. 

The Deputy State Director James Amundsen issued a statement to show support for the bill passage. “The Tennessee Legislature should be commended for taking another important step to lift protectionist restrictions that limit access to quality, affordable health care. Although there is still much more work to be done to end the CON outright, it cannot be overlooked that this bill greatly streamlines the current process, eliminates several protectionist aspects for incumbent providers, and creates greater access to certain health services in Tennessee,” the statement said. “Most importantly, the eventual merger of the CON and licensure responsibilities into a single agency signals that our state is committed to helping Tennesseans get the care when and where they need it. We urge Governor Lee to sign this bill without delay.” 

 The bill now heads to state Governor Bill Lee’s desk.

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