State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) presented legislation to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Monday that would remove the Certificate of Need (CON) process for burn, neo-natal, open heart surgery, cardiac care and other selected health services in Tennessee.
Action on the bill was deferred for two weeks to give stakeholders time to meet and determine how to move forward before the General Assembly adjourns in mid-to-late April.
“This legislation makes reasonable, logical changes to modernize our antiquated CON process in Tennessee,” said Senator Gardenhire, who chaired a study committee last summer which looked into the CON process. “Working closely with interested parties throughout the health care community and key stakeholders, I feel we can come forward with a proposal before this legislative session ends to bring much-needed reforms to the process.”
CON is a legal document required in some states, including Tennessee, before proposed acquisitions, expansions, or creations of healthcare facilities are allowed. In short, if a hospital or healthcare facility wishes to expand its capacity, whether that is the number of hospital beds it makes available or the types of imaging it can conduct, the facility must apply to a state board for permission through the CON process.
Tennessee’s CON program started in 1974 as a result of the passage of the federal “Health Planning and Resources Development Act” which made federal funding contingent on having a process in place. That requirement was lifted in 1987 and, while 14 states discontinued their program, Tennessee decided to continue the CON process. Tennessee is now one of four states tied for having the seventh most regulated CON program, according to a study by Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Senate Bill 1842 also allows healthcare providers in counties exceeding a population of 200,000 to increase magnetic imaging machines (MRI) by one or more except when replacing or decommissioning an existing machine.
“This proposal recognizes the significant challenges that our providers in rural areas face, and that these challenges are very different from those faced by providers in our more urban areas,” added Gardenhire. “Some of the CON process remains intact under the bill, recognizing these differences, as we take a measured approach to ensure quality of care for Tennessee patients while moving forward with reform.
“The 42-year-old CON process has not kept up with the tremendous advances that have occurred in healthcare. It is time we pass this legislation which would bring a breath of fresh air in the way consumers and providers interact in the healthcare market.”