Senate Bill 613 ignores our state health plan and 50 years of proven health care planning by essentially eliminating certificate of need (CON) and allowing any hospital to provide any service they wish on the “campus” of their hospital. The authors of this bill are attempting to completely gut CON by changing critical definitions that ensure need-based decisions and access to high quality, affordable care.
These changes were proposed in legislation the past two to three legislative sessions by Thomas Memorial Hospital. The Senate in previous sessions appreciated the need for health care planning in West Virginia and resisted weakening CON. Since WVU Medicine purchased Thomas Memorial Hospital, the Senate leadership now supports the gutting of health care planning in the state.
Another change in SB 613 is a provision to allow a physician group with seven or more locations to offer MRI services. This change in law is a direct effort to aid one physician group in the Eastern Panhandle in obtaining an MRI.
West Virginia (like 32 other states) has benefited from health care planning and certificate of need. Without this planning the state would not have the safety net health care services (Level 1 trauma centers in Charleston and Morgantown, Level 2 trauma Center in Huntington; neonatal intensive care centers and pediatric intensive care centers in Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown; organ transplant centers in Charleston and Morgantown) and medical education centers we currently have around the state educating the next generation of care providers.
The CON process provides an even playing field, ensuring all providers are treated fairly and equally. The changes called for in SB 613 picks well connected favorites and creates winners and losers. We are a small state with limited resources already struggling to compete for physicians, nurses and members of our workforce. SB 613 does nothing to strengthen or advance health care in our state. If this bill is the will of the Legislature, they may as well eliminate CON. Both would be the wrong decision.
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