Florida governor wants to repeal CON law

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is once again butting heads with the Sunshine State's hospitals, saying he supports a bill pending in the Legislature that would eliminate the certificate of need (CON) law, the Miami Herald reported.

"Driving down healthcare costs is essential to expanding access to coverage and increasing quality,'' Scott, a Republican, said in a statement, according to the Herald. He claimed that better hospital readmission rates in Texas--which does not have a CON statute--suggest that the number of hospitals in his state is overregulated, according to The News Service of Florida.

Florida is not the only red state to push to overturn the CON regulations. In South Carolina, a long fight has been brewing over the elimination of its CON law, which the state Supreme Court has ruled to uphold. Not-for-profit providers in that state have expressed concerns that without a CON they would have to compete against for-profit operators and create an atmosphere that could disrupt care delivery.

The Florida Hospital Association (FHA) is against repealing Florida's CON law for similar reasons. Bill Bell, the FHA's general counsel, said the elimination of the CON would create disincentives for treating indigent patients. 

"No one wants to compete with us for non-paying patients,'' Bell told the Herald. "They only want to siphon off our paying patients, increase our costs, and we would have to shift those costs back to our paying patients and businesses."

Florida already has a significant number of for-profit hospital operators, and their focus on the bottom line is intense. Twenty of the nation's 50 hospitals that charge the highest rates above Medicare are in the Sunshine State, according to a Health Affairs study released earlier this week. Nearly all of the hospitals cited in the study operate as for-profit facilities, though major chains Community Health Systems and Hospital Corporation of America said the study doesn't accurately reflect what patients really pay. 

To learn more:
- read the Miami Herald article 
- check out The News Service of Florida article