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Repeal of certificate of need process heads to the House floor

The Florida House is expected to take up repealing the state’s certificate of need process for healthcare facilities next week, after a second and final committee approved advancing the bill Thursday.
HB 21, sponsored by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, passed the House’s Health and Human Services committee 14-3 despite continued concerns from hospice and nursing home groups about their inclusion in the bill. The measure, at the top of House Speaker José Oliva’s healthcare deregulation checklist, allows the state to determine whether hospitals and other healthcare facilities can build or add beds.
Oliva and other supporters of the measure have said the process, which is overseen by the state Agency for Health Care Administration, throttles competition to existing facilities and allows them to keep prices high. But opponents have contended that the move could lower the quality of low volume but complex treatment by siphoning away cases needed to keep providers well-trained, and that it could draw away paying patients from facilities.
Nursing home and hospice facilities, which have not always been included in past repeal efforts, have argued that the existing certificate of need process ensures that there are facilities that serve all regions of the state, and that controlling how many facilities are built ensures that existing facilities can keep their beds occupied. Nursing homes in particular have argued that controlling how many nursing homes are built allows the state to encourage home and community-based options for seniors.
But Fitzenhagen in committee Thursday said that she felt the type of care that people seek out was determined more by personal decisions or by the type of care being sought, rather than state regulations.
The push to repeal certificates of need has cleared the House multiple times in recent years, but it remains to be seen if counterparts in the Senate will also approve the bill. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has expressed some reservations about Oliva’s broad deregulatory plans and said he does not approve of fully eliminating the program.
The Senate companion to Fitzenhagen’s bill, SB 1712, filed by Health Policy chair Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, is scheduled to be heard in its first committee stop Monday.