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Legislative group recommends more Tennessee certificate of need reform

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(The Center Square) – A joint working group on Tennessee certificate of need reform has recommended a continued rollback or restrictions and changes to the process of approving new and expanded health care facilities and services in the state.

CON laws were mandated by the federal government in 1972 and regulate how many medical facilities are available in an area and what services they provide in an effort to reduce consumer costs. Even though Congress later eliminated the CON requirement in 1987, many states retained them.

The report asks the state to end CON requirements for freestanding emergency departments, habitation facilities for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, burn units, neonatal intensive care units and organ transplantation.

The group also recommended lowering the population threshold for some CON requirements to counties of 100,000 instead of 175,000, meaning those restrictions would apply to less counties statewide.

The population carve-outs are recommended to be expanded to apply to acute care hospitals, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography procedures to examine metabolic activity of tissues, megavolt radiation therapy and several other procedures.

The working group includes Sens. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, Shane Reeve, R-Murfreesboro and Bo Watson, R-Hixson along with Reps. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon and Ron Gant, R-Piperton.

A recent Beacon Center report showed CON applications in the state have dropped from 122 in 2004 to 36 in 2021 and 18 in 2022.

“Beacon fully supports the certificate-of-need working group’s report calling for major changes to CON laws that will expand access to quality healthcare across our state, particularly in rural areas,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “We thank Lt. Gov. McNally and Speaker Sexton for forming the working group, and we applaud the group’s members for a job well done.”

A report from Americans for Prosperity Foundation showed Tennessee has been denied $1.5 billion in new health-care investment since 2000 due to CON laws.