Listen Live
Listen Live

Georgia Senate passes certificate of need reform measure

SHARE NOW

(The Center Square) — The Georgia Senate has passed a measure to reform Georgia’s certificate of need laws.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 1339 by a 43-11 margin. The House overwhelmingly passed the measure last month, and the amended version returns to the House for consideration.

State lawmakers considered removing the mandate last year but didn’t act, and the House and Senate established study committees to explore possible changes to the CON mandate. The Senate study committee recommended lawmakers repeal the mandate, while a House version offered more measured recommendations.

“In Georgia, your zip code should not determine your access to quality healthcare; that includes areas like South Fulton and Cuthbert,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones, a Republican, said in a statement. “The Senate passed a measure today that would ensure that every Georgian, regardless of where they live, would have an opportunity to access quality care in their community. I urge the House to take swift action on this measure.”

CONs have been in place since the 1970s, and according to the Georgia Department of Community Health, CONs “measure and define” the need for a facility, aim to control costs and ensure Georgians have access to healthcare. The measure includes more exemptions from the CON mandate but does not outright eliminate it.

“Lawmakers can do more to help and protect Georgians. They can close the coverage gap at a time that expanding health care access has unprecedented, bipartisan support across the state. We urge lawmakers to find a Georgia-specific solution to close the health care coverage gap now,” John Hoctor, managing director of advocacy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Georgia, said in a statement.

It also creates a Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission to advise elected officials and policymakers on opportunities to improve healthcare for the state’s low-income and uninsured populations.

“Certificate of Need laws in our state have created unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that limit access to health care and increase costs,” Americans for Prosperity – Georgia State Director Tony West said in a statement. “…This bill would no longer require Certificate of Need for perinatal services, in hospital settings and non-hospital settings, including birthing centers.”

Separately, Georgia Democrats continue their push to expand Medicaid in the state. Instead of expanding Medicaid, the state launched the Georgia Pathways to Coverage program in July 2023, which provides Medicaid to Georgians between 19 and 64 in households with incomes up to the federal poverty level but are not eligible for regular Medicaid.

“House Bill 1339 as amended in the Senate will hurt rural hospitals, because the bill does little to address the economic hardships caused by large numbers of uninsured and under-insured patients, which not-for-profit hospitals are required to treat without regard to their ability to pay,” Monty Veazey, president and CEO of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, said in a statement to The Center Square. “Short of Medicaid expansion, hospitals will continue to run operating deficits, and we will continue to lose rural hospitals.

“Certificate of Need helps ensure lower patient costs and protects hospitals’ financial stability, but the increased exemptions in the Senate version of HB 1339 will put additional pressure on already suffering hospitals,” Veazey added. “Increasing the cap on the successful rural hospital tax credit helps, but is not enough to stem the tide of financially-troubled rural hospitals.”