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Tennessee House approves certificate of need reform

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(The Center Square) – The Tennessee House passed removing several health care services from the state’s certificate of need laws, which will now head to the full Senate.

The bill removes CON requirements in counties without an acute care hospital starting July 1, 2025, but begin a 10-mile buffer for competing companies building a new free-standing emergency room.

The bill would then remove burn units, neonatal intensive care, ICF, IDD (intermediate care for disabilities), PET and MRI facilities from CON on Dec. 1, 2025.

House Bill 2269 removes ambulatory surgical centers, linear accelerators and long-term care hospitals from CON on Dec. 1, 2027 and open-heart surgery centers on Dec. 1, 2029.

The bill passed the House 76-12.

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 bill came from negotiations after a joint working group studied CON in Tennessee and put forward recommendations.

Rep. Aftyn Behn, D-Nashville, said during discussion that she would have preferred that Medicaid being expanded along with CON repeal like it was in North Carolina would have made the bill better.

She asked sponsor Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, why Medicaid expansion wasn’t included and Boyd said “Because I didn’t want to. You can always file a bill next year if you’d like to do that.”

Representatives in House committee mentioned issues related to Ballad Health’s monopoly in Northeast Tennessee are a large issue impacting residents.