Senate OKs certificate of need bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would eliminate some unnecessary medical care certificate of need requirements in Michigan, said lead sponsor Sen. Curt VanderWall.

A certificate of need (CON) is authorization that enables the establishment or expansion of health care facilities or services. A commission governs the standards for Michigan’s CON, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reviews each application according to these standards.

Senate Bills 669 and 671-674 would reduce medical costs and provide more medical care access to Michigan residents.

VanderWall said that 40% of the U.S. population lives in states with no certificate of need program, and the package of CON bills would update an outdated process to provide better access to care, improve the quality of care and control costs.

“The certificate of need requirements in Michigan are rife with unnecessary red tape and costs that we need to deal with to provide better access for Michigan residents,” said VanderWall, R-Ludington. “These bills provide a solution.”

VanderWall introduced SBs 669, 672 and 673 in the package.

SB 669 would eliminate covered capital expenditures from the certificate of need process.

“Because there are no standards by which to reject an application, the process of getting approved for a certificate of need for covered capital expenditures is costly and unnecessary,” VanderWall said.

SBs 672 and 673 would repeal the certificate of need requirement for psychiatric beds and would require, as a condition of licensure, a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric unit to accept public patients and maintain 50% of beds available to public patients.

“I think everyone can agree that we have major challenges in the area of mental health, and while these two bills will not solve this particular issue, I believe they bring us one step closer to eliminating a hurdle from the process,” VanderWall said. “If someone has the staff today or the capacity today to make an additional psychiatric bed available, I want it opened. I don’t want people to have to continue to wait for services while the government works their program and process.”

SB 671 (Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton) would add two new public members to the state’s Certificate of Need Commission, one of which must be from a county with a population of 40,000 or less. The bill also would make it easier to appoint members to Standard Advisory Committees.

SB 674 (Sen. Michael D. MacDonald, R-Macomb Township) would eliminate air ambulances from the CON process. VanderWall said that Michigan is one of just five states that have a CON for air ambulances, and the helicopters themselves are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

There has been work on incorporating the other CON standards into the rules for Emergency Medical Services for the last four years. The bill would delay the elimination until Oct. 1.

“I hope that with a deadline, the work can be completed and added to the rules,” VanderWall said.

SBs 669 and 671-674 now head to the Michigan House for further consideration.