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NCGA Lawmakers Seek To Pare Down Healthcare Facility Regulations

Hospital room
Flickr Creative Commons

For the past 40 years, healthcare service providers wanting to open new facilities have had to get a Certificate of Need from the state Department of Health and Human Services. The regulations, known as CON laws, cover 12 different types of medical services, making North Carolina’s laws some of the most restrictive in the nation. 

Several bills in the legislature would reduce the types of medical services covered by CON laws or do away with the regulations entirely.

At a press conference Wednesday hosted by five Republican lawmakers, Representative Ed Goodwin (R-Chowan) said he supports a proposal to remove ambulatory surgery centers from existing CON laws. He believes it will allow for more competition among providers, and drive down costs.

“The way full CON laws operate, that interferes with the free market, free enterprise. That is not fair,” said Goodwin. “It’s amazing to me we’re so concerned about health care, yet we ignore the impact of CON laws on people in this state.”

Opponents of repealing CON laws worry that if independent for-profit facilities multiply, larger hospitals will lose money, making it harder to offer charity care to poor and uninsured patients.

In response, Senator Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) suggested the bill exempting ambulatory surgical centers would include a new framework of fees that could subsidize charity care.

“For a new surgery center that would start, there would be a four percent component that would either have to go toward charity care or go as a fee to the local, closest Tier 1 or Tier 2 hospital, because they are providing care to anyone who walks through the door through their emergency room,” he said.

If approved, Burgin said this could be a two-year pilot program to evaluate the impact of repealing CON laws on one sector of the healthcare industry. 

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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