Whitmer admin’s latest CON denial underscores need for reform

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Curt VanderWall on Thursday said legislation recently approved by the Senate to eliminate unnecessary medical care certificate of need requirements would have saved a multimillion-dollar expansion project at a west Michigan mental health services facility.

The project at Pine Rest Christian Mental Services would have added 60 adult in-patient psychiatric beds at its headquarters had bureaucrats in the state Department of Health and Human Services not denied the expansion.

“The denial of this project by unelected DHHS bureaucrats is just the latest example of why Michigan needs to reform its broken system of certificate of need requirements, especially for mental health services,” said VanderWall, R-Ludington, who chairs the Senate’s Health Policy and Human Services Committee. “During this unprecedented time in our state’s history, as we continue to battle the coronavirus and its associated impact on public health, we should be doing more — not less — to improve the health and wellbeing of our fellow residents.

“That’s why I introduced, and the Senate passed, legislation that would help improve access to mental health services and help address the mental health services shortage in the state, and particularly in our rural communities. It is a shame that the CON process is so broken and yet the governor’s administration seems so content with maintaining the status quo.”

VanderWall sponsored Senate Bill 181 and Senate Bill 190 in the recently-approved five-bill package.

SB 181 would remove the requirement for a CON for psychiatric beds, increase the threshold amount for capital expenditures to be considered “covered capital expenditures” to $10 million, and remove the CON requirement for air ambulances after June 1.

SB 190 would change the licensure requirements so that, as a condition of licensure for psychiatric beds, 50% of the beds must be available for public patients.

More than 40% of the U.S. population lives in states with no certificate of need requirements, whereas Michigan has 18 certificate of need requirements.