Georgia lawmakers push for repeal of law determining where medical facilities are built

Sen. Greg Dolezal, chairman of the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform

Nov 28, 2023

A study committee of Georgia senators took a decisive step Tuesday toward ending a longstanding and contentious law that regulates how and where new medical facilities are located in the state.

The committee’s decision centers on the 44-year-old Certificate of Need law. It was created to control health care costs and cut down on duplication of services and unnecessary expansions. It determines when, where and if hospitals need to be built. Opponents have said the law prevents competition and enables big hospitals to have a monopoly, often shutting out small and private medical outlets. 

On Tuesday, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform effectively said the law needs to be repealed. The committee approved, in a 6-2 vote, nine recommendations.

 “Based upon the testimony, research presented, and information received, the Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform has found that the problem Georgia’s CON law was intended to combat no longer exists,” the report said. 

However, the head of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals said Tuesday that repealing the law would be a bad idea.

“It would have a devastating financial impact on hospitals and the quality and access to health care,” Monty Veazey, the alliance’s chief executive, told State Affairs.

Veazey said he has not seen the recommendations yet but his organization has sent its own set of recommendations to the senate and house study committees. 

“We believe that the certificate of need really does need some modernization and we look forward to working with the committee to work through those recommendations and see if we can reach a compromise position during the upcoming legislative session,” Veazey said. “We still want to see what the House committee recommends before moving forward.”

Here’s what the senate study committee recommends, according to a draft:

  • Repeal CON requirements for obstetrics services, neonatal intensive care, birth centers and all services related to maternal and neonatal care across Georgia.
  • End requirements for hospital-based CON on Jan. 1, 2025.
  • Reform CON laws to eliminate CON review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds that serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
  • Repeal all cost expenditure triggers for CON.
  • All medical and surgery specialties should be considered a single specialty, including cardiology and general surgery.
  • Multi-specialty centers should be allowed, particularly in rural areas.
  • Remove CON for hospital bed expansion.
  • Revise freestanding emergency department requirements such that they must be within 35 miles of an affiliated hospital.
  • Remove CON for research centers.

The committee will present its recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.

Have questions? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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