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Legislature battles over Certificate of Need regulation

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Florida is among 35 states where health care providers have to justify why they need to build a facility or provide certain services. But some lawmakers want to eliminate that regulation.

The two bills are known as House Bill 21, which is sponsored by Fort Myers Republican Heather Fitzenhagen and Senate Bill 1712, which is sponsored by Stuart Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell.

HB 21 gets rid of the regulation that hospitals, nursing homes and hospices use to expand. SB 1712 is less aggressive with the repeal. It keeps the regulation for nursing homes and hospices but makes it easier for hospitals to grow.

Fitzenhagen is pushing her bill through the Florida legislature. The bill passed the House last week and is now in the Senate.

They are trying to eliminate the Certificate of Need regulation or “CON,” which might affect the ongoing doctor shortage in Florida.

A concern raised by Tampa Democrat Susan Valdes.

“I’m concerned that repealing the health planning process that the CON enables will only exacerbate this problem,” Valdes said.

But Fitzenhagen said it would be an issue and this bill does the opposite.

“We have to find ways that are making more and more doctors attracted to come here,” Fitzenhagen said.

We are halfway through the legislative session. Rolling back health care regulations and cutting costs is a top priority for House speaker Jose Olivia.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Harrell talks about her version of the idea, which would limit the CON repeal.

“We really need to deal with the issues of CON, but not throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Harrell said.

The state would not have to sign off on hospital expansion as long as the new hospitals have at least 100 beds, meet charity care requirements and accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.

It is an idea Sen. Aaron Bean from Jacksonville supports after initial opposition.

“I love competition,” Bean said. “But it has to be a fair playing field.”

He said keeping the CON requirement for nursing homes and hospices would do that.

“The important thing to do is to make sure patients get the appropriate care in the appropriate setting,” Harrell said.