Policy Group Pushes to Eliminate Georgia’s Certificate of Need Program

by T.A. DeFeo


Americans for Prosperity-Georgia recently launched a six-figure campaign encouraging Georgia lawmakers to repeal the state’s certificate of need requirement.

The General Assembly established Georgia’s CON program in 1979, though state officials started reviewing healthcare projects in 1975.

A Georgia state senator has introduced legislation to repeal Georgia’s certificate of need law. On Wednesday, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee advanced Senate Bill 162.

Tony West, AFP-GA’s deputy state director, recently spoke with The Center Square about the group’s effort.

Proponents say the CON is necessary to keep patients safe. What’s wrong with that argument?

You can look at the denials when applications come through. You can see everything the Department of Community Health doesn’t allow to pass, and that’s [a healthcare option] that the average Georgian would have access to that they now don’t because CON is in place.

…It makes no sense that a government board, a CON board, would just be able to say, “No, it’s not necessary.” We think the public’s demand in terms of supply and demand should be informing healthcare providers’ decisions on when to open something or when not to.

Proponents say repealing the CON requirement will open the door to large corporate and outsider interests buying local hospitals.

Their argument is that certain hospitals operate on razor-thin margins because the payer mix isn’t great. The payer mix they’re talking about is comparing private insurance, which they get reimbursed the most on, versus Medicaid coverage, which [covers those who are] uninsured, and they’re losing money on those patients. If that’s the scenario one hospital is facing, what private hospital would come in and set up shop near them? There isn’t the payer mix to make money. They admitted that when they said they’re on razor-thin margins, so you can’t have it both ways.

Are people generally aware of the CON requirement?

This is what’s so amazing about this issue: Everybody agrees something’s not right with healthcare policy in the United States. We have some of the best … healthcare in the world. I think a lot of people would agree with that, but we understand when it comes to why am I paying what I’m paying, what does insurance cost, why do I have to go here, not there, those types of questions we’ve been asking for years and years, and Obamacare didn’t solve that. That top-down approach still hasn’t solved the issue of the cost of healthcare vastly outpacing inflation — maybe not in the last couple of years — but historically.

…What I’ve found is the average Georgian has no idea about CON, but when they learn about it, they think it’s outrageous. They can’t believe it’s still on the books. They wonder why the legislature hasn’t acted to completely get rid of this, not just tinker with it, but to completely get rid of it.

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T.A. DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square. 
Photo “Hospital” by tungnguyen0905.


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