Georgia Senate Committee Stops CON Repeal Bill

Published April 27, 2018

A bill that would have removed some government regulations on the supply of health care in Georgia was stopped without receiving consideration by the full state Senate.

Senate Bill 400 (S.B. 400), sponsored by state Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cummings), would have repealed Georgia’s certificate-of-need laws, removing restrictions on the supply and kind of health care hospitals and medical facilities may provide.

S.B. 400 was referred to the Georgia Senate Health and Human Services Committee in February. The committee did not schedule any hearings or votes on the bill, blocking the progress of S.B. 400 on March 1, the Legislature’s “crossover day.”

Any bill proceeding through the Georgia Legislature must be approved by the full chamber in which it was introduced before the thirtieth day of the legislative session. Bills failing to meet this deadline are not allowed to proceed to the other chamber for consideration.

‘Costs Keep Going Up’

Williams says he thinks government interference is driving up the cost of health care in Georgia.

“Costs keep going up, but the services and access to doctors keep doing down,” Williams said. “I think CON is a huge part of that in Georgia. We need to move toward the free market and less toward socialized medicine. Fifteen states have already fully repealed CON laws, including Texas, and Texas has MD Anderson, which is a world-class facility.”

Benita Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, says CON laws inhibit entrepreneurship in health care.

“The laws require a facility to apply for a certificate that will demonstrate that it’s needed in the community,” Dodd said. “The problem with that is it is not a free-market system where a business can take its chances. You have to apply to the state before you can open a facility or expand a medical facility, and I don’t believe that the policy does any kind of positive service to such communities.”

‘A Huge Hurdle for Newcomers’

Dodd says reducing regulatory burdens and promoting competition in health care are critical.

“It is really important to allow new businesses to come in and provide services in communities,” Dodd said. “The regulatory burden of applying for the certificate of need, proving that a community actually needs this service, is a huge hurdle for newcomers and a great advantage to existing providers who can dispute whether a community needs that service.”

‘A Government-Owned Monopoly’

Williams says the free market has the cure for what ails the health care system.

“When we look at the situation right now, with health care in our state and our country, it’s pretty much a government-owned monopoly, because before a hospital can open up, it needs permission from the state,” Williams said. “We need to utilize the free-market system. It will increase access and level of service and decrease cost.”

Dodd says free-market principles work for health care just as they do in other economic sectors.

“If you want to set up your new grocery store across the road from the existing grocery store, you don’t have to prove that the community needs it,” Dodd said. “You go in there and you compete with the grocery store across the road, and the best person wins. The best prices win. The best quality wins. So why are we doing this with health care?”