Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal:

A bipartisan group of House members hopes to break a regulatory chokehold on surgical facilities.

Reps. Billy Richardson, D-Cumberland; Ed Goodwin, R-Chowan; and David Rogers, R-Rutherford, on Tuesday, April 16, filed House Bill 857. The bill abolishes certificate-of-need laws preventing standalone ambulatory surgery centers from entering the medical market unless they get permission from state bureaucrats.

Critics say the CON laws are archaic, protect incumbent providers from competition, and drive up health care costs. Certificates of need — essentially government permission slips to provide certain services or buy equipment — require a lengthy, expensive bureaucratic process. Providers already operating these facilities have an outsized say in deciding if potential competitors get approved.

The N.C. Healthcare Association, representing hospitals and large health systems, has a different take.

“NCHA continues to support the CON law in its current form to protect access to care across the state, especially for rural and underserved populations,” spokeswoman Julie Henry said to Carolina Journal.

“Repealing the law, or adding an exception for specialty providers, will not create a free market in health care so long as specialty providers are not held to the same requirements as hospitals to care for all, regardless of ability to pay,” Henry said.

Richardson knows it’s an uphill climb to pass legislation reducing or eliminating CON regulations, particularly in the House, which has been more resistant to change than the Senate. But he’s not swayed.

“Just because legislation is difficult, and hard to get it done doesn’t mean it’s not needed,” Richardson said. “I think there’s nothing more powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

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