- North Carolina is poised to modify its certificate of need laws by raising the dollar thresholds on healthcare projects that trigger a review by state regulators.
- The House passed the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 100-3, sending the measure to the desk of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The Senate had already passed the bill 48-1 in May.
- The bill also requires construction to start within a certain time period or risk the certificate expiring. Currently, certificates have no prescribed time frames. Cooper's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The measure in North Carolina allows healthcare facilities to move forward with projects and purchases without having to go through a regulatory review process.
CON laws require healthcare operators to gain approval from state health regulators when building new facilities, purchasing new technology or adding a new service. All but 11 states have such laws in place, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Currently, certain projects or equipment purchases trigger a review if they exceed a certain price tag.
For new major medical equipment, the current threshold would increase to $2 million from $750,000. And capital expenditures for new services would increase to $4 million from $2 million.
The bill requires certificate of need holders to initiate construction on new projects within four years or the CON expires.
Certificate of need laws came under scrutiny as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation last year, overwhelming hospital resources and raising questions about the value of CON.
The belief was that CON laws could contain healthcare prices if operators were limited from opening a new facility at will, creating a duplication of services. Regulators sought to ensure there was a "need" in a community before granting approval for new projects.
However, researchers say CON laws don't live up to the desired intent, failing to constrain costs.
As the nation struggled with capacity issues as hospitalizations soared last year, it raised questions about whether states need to rethink the value of CON laws.
"Certificate-of-need (CON) laws may contribute to diminished healthcare capacity, and their elimination can help raise the bar so that the nation is ready for the next healthcare crisis," a policy brief from the Mercatus Center said.