House Republican legislators pass legislation to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need Laws

Chief Co-Patron Chris Peace commends his colleagues, Dels. O’Bannon and Byron on its Passage RICHMOND, VA – At the beginning of the 2016 session, Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) joined several other senior Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates to introduce legislation to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) laws. Policies spanned from full repeal to various other significant reforms to COPN, to create a more free-market healthcare system, improve access to quality and affordable care for patients while controlling costs.

Virginia is one of 36 states with certificate of public need (COPN) laws. Currently, Virginia regulates far more than those states with almost 20 different services, including but not limited to general acute care services, diagnostic imaging, ambulatory surgical centers, capital expenditures, and facilities construction. Under current law, if a healthcare provider wants to build a new facility, add new CT or MRI services, or change the services it provides, it must go through a lengthy and costly application process with state regulators who determine if there is a “public need” for such a service.

The application process can take nine months or longer which on its face is a barrier to market. It nearly derailed a stand-alone emergency department being pursued in New Kent and initially rejected the moving of imaging equipment within Bon Secours from a location at Reynolds Crossing (Glenside/Broad) to Short Pump. “The COPN system is the epitome of central planning and lacks common sense,” according to Del. Peace.

“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 and private business to partner in the selection of services they need in their backyard while allowing competition to drive costs down.”

Passed today, HB 193 creates 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.

Additionally, HB 350, changes numerous administrative processes to make the program more efficient and transparent. It adds an expedited 45 day review period for noncontroversial projects, and is based on the recommendations approved by a work group convened by Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel in 2015. Speaking to the bill, Del. Kathy Byron stated, “Despite an onslaught of negative ads and paid phone calls, a majority of Delegates understood we have to act to lower healthcare costs.”

HB 193, chief co-patroned by Peace, passed the House by a vote of 52-46. HB 350, also chief co-patroned by Peace passed by a vote of 94-4. The measures will now head to the Senate for consideration.

“We are now one step closer to meaningful COPN reform in Virginia,” asserted Del. John O’Bannon.