A number of bills looking to amend the Certificate of Public Need law, process, and specifics have been introduced to both the state senate and house. The bills, numbering around twenty-four total, look to make various changes and exemptions to the law. Riverside Hospital in Tappahannock is worried by these proposed changes that could have sweeping effects on the healthcare system in Virginia.
The Certificate of Public Need (COPN), also called Certificate of Need, is a bill made law in multiple states to varying degrees in the 1970’s. The bill’s primary purpose is to keep the cost of healthcare down, by limiting the size of hospitals. Arguments for the law stated that if a hospital has too many beds and cannot fill them, prices will rise to cover that gap. To expand, to add new devices, to move beds to another facility, and more, a hospital must go through a process of showing there is a need for their expanse or move. The first step is a pragmatic argument for the request to the hospital and to the general public. Once that step is completed, the hospital’s job is done. The petition eventually gets to the Commissioner of Health, who will give permits or recommendations.
“There’s a high success rate when going through the process,” said Mark Duncan, lawyer and Director of Government Relations for Riverside Hospital. “There’s already a process in place to achieve the hospital’s goals.” A lot of the bills are similar, looking to make exemptions for certain services in specific locations. “Piecemeal deregulation,” Duncan called them.
However, a handful of bills, namely House Bill 874 and 1102, aim to make larger changes to the Certificate of Public Need process. Both look to make exemptions for services, some wider ranging than others, and amend or completely change the process. “The process can be improved,” said Duncan. “Reform it to make it quicker and more transparent. Less costly, less timely for hospitals. But the policy goal needs to stay in place.” That goal being keeping prices down.
“If it is taken away, it takes away small community input in the healthcare system,” said Esther Desimini, Vice President and Administrator of Riverside Hospital in Tappahannock. “It gives advantage to places like Richmond to pull people to Richmond.”
For the full article pick up a copy of this weeks Northumberland Echo Newspaper 1/31/18