Three Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates are introducing legislation in the 2016 General Assembly session to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) laws. Delegates John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) and Christopher Peace (R-Hanover) are proposing eight legislative ideas to repeal or reform COPN, create a more free-market healthcare system, improve access for patients, and control costs. “As a physician, I see firsthand the negative effects that burdensome COPN regulations are having on healthcare in Virginia,” said Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico). “COPN laws limit competition, which means fewer choices and higher costs for Virginia families. Reforming COPN is the best way to improve access for patients, expand healthcare services and keep costs under control. I look forward to working with my colleagues this coming session to enact meaningful reform.”
Specifically, Delegate O’Bannon’s proposal would create a three phase process to sunset most of Virginia’s COPN laws over a three year period. Phase one includes eliminating COPN for imaging services. Phase two would eliminate COPN for ambulatory and outpatient surgery centers. The third phase would eliminate COPN for hospitals and all other categories. The legislation leaves an exemption for nursing homes, open-heart surgery facilities, and tissue transplant services. The final major piece of the bill includes strict charity care requirements for all providers. The bill requires charity care contributions to be tracked, monitored, and enforced by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“In my district, and in rural communities across Virginia, access and affordability are the biggest healthcare challenges facing patients,” said Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), Chairman of the Health Insurance Reform Commission. “The Federal Trade Commission says COPN ‘laws undercut consumer choice, stifle innovation, and weaken markets’ ability to contain health care costs.’ Virginia needs comprehensive COPN reform to allow the free market to create competition, increase choices, and reduce costs.”
Delegate Byron will introduce several measures aimed at reforming COPN laws, including legislation related to repealing the COPN requirements for ambulatory surgery centers, medical equipment, and LASIK equipment. Delegate Byron will also introduce a bill that would enact an immediate repeal of Virginia’s COPN laws but would protect rural hospitals and nursing homes by exempting them from the repeal.
“Virginian’s deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover). “Yet far too often, local communities are denied increased access to basic services such as outpatient emergency rooms, CT scanners or MRIs by healthcare regulators based on decisions made by unelected bureaucrats. Virginia should reform our COPN laws so that local communities can decide which services they need in their neighborhoods, and allow for competition to drive costs down.”
Delegate Peace will introduce legislation to repeal the COPN requirements for CT scanning, MRI, MSI, PET scanning and nuclear medicine imaging provided the medical provider meets the following criteria: has the appropriate accreditation, adheres to the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria or other evidence-based national standards to discourage utilization, registers equipment with the Commissioner and regional health planning agency and meets certain equipment standards that will be left up to the regulatory process, and provides the same amount (at a minimum) of the average percentage of indigent care provided in the health planning region in the previous year in which the physician’s office resides. If the physician is unable to meet this requirement, the option to provide a monetary contribution instead remains. Peace has also introduced legislation that would enact an immediate and partial repeal of Virginia’s COPN laws. This bill would exempt nursing homes, open-heart surgery centers, and tissue transplant services from the repeal, and would enact strong charity care requirements to ensure the most vulnerable have access to vital healthcare services.
Republican legislators participating in the press conference included Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), and Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover).