One of the keys to the stability of Georgia’s network of care is the state’s Certificate of Need program. These laws, which have been upheld by the court and maintained by the General Assembly ensure that investments in health care meet the needs of our state, preserve access to care, and control the overall cost to taxpayers.
Certificate of Need is the only tool to ensure that medical facilities are available to all Georgians.
Your recent “Scuttlebiz” business column “Georgia Supreme Court upholds state’s most anti-capitalist law” (Oct. 22) suggests that the free market should instead determine where and which medical facilities are built.
However, unlike the nail salons and restaurants to which hospitals were equated, hospitals are very different and simply having more facilities does not mean greater access for patients.
Also unlike nail salons and restaurants, there is no free market in health care today. Since 1986, federal legislation, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires hospitals to treat all emergency patients without regard to their ability to pay.
This large unfunded federal mandate makes emergency rooms very expensive to keep open. When federal law requires a hospital to give away services for whatever a patient wants to pay or is able to afford, that is not a free market.
Experience proves that without Certificate of Need we would see only new facilities that offer only the most lucrative procedures, to the most well-insured patients.
This occurs at the expense of existing hospitals, which then lose the benefit of offering profitable services that help cover the cost of much-needed but costly services, such as emergency rooms and trauma centers.
Ultimately, patient choice is reduced.
Expert testimony recently commissioned by the Georgia Attorney General’s office demonstrated that CON programs do achieve the desired goals of reducing health care costs, improving the quality of health care services, and expanding access to care.
At a time when access to care is becoming an even bigger challenge for Georgians, changing or eliminating CON simply is not the right decision.
The writer is president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.