FILE - Michigan State Capitol

The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan.

The Michigan Senate passed Certificate of Need (CON) adjustment bills that aim to reduce costs of health care and increase consumer access.

A CON currently requires healthcare providers to obtain permission from a commission prior to expanding or establishing new facilities or services.

Lead sponsor, Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, said 40 percent of Americans live in states without a CON program and his package would improve access and quality of health care.

“The certificate of need requirements in Michigan are rife with unnecessary red tape and costs that we need to deal with to provide better access for Michigan residents,” VanderWall said. “These bills provide a solution.”

Senate Bill 669, if enacted, would cut covered capital expenditures from the CON process, a news release said.

“Because there are no standards by which to reject an application, the process of getting approved for a certificate of need for covered capital expenditures is costly and unnecessary,” VanderWall said.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) supports SB 669 in concept according to a MHA memo provided to the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee on December 5, 2019.

 SB 672 and SB 73, which are tie-barred, meaning both must pass in order to be enacted, would repeal the CON requirement for an increase in the number of beds in a psychiatric facility.

The legislation would also require a licensed psychiatric facility to keep half of its beds available to public patients, the Senate Fiscal analysis says.

“I think everyone can agree that we have major challenges in the area of mental health, and while these two bills will not solve this particular issue, I believe they bring us one step closer to eliminating a hurdle from the process,” VanderWall said.

“If someone has the staff today or the capacity today to make an additional psychiatric bed available, I want it opened. I don’t want people to have to continue to wait for services while the government works their program and process.”

SB 671, sponsored by Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, seeks to add two new public members to the now 11-member CON Commission, one from a county populated by 40,000 or fewer people.

A news release said the bill aims to ease appointed members to Standard Advisory Committees, which advises the CON commission on review standards.

SB 674, filed by Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, would eliminate air ambulances from the CON process. Air ambulances are helicopters or airplanes used to transport patients in hard-to-reach emergencies.

Michigan is one of five states that require a CON for air ambulances, VanderWall said, and the Federal Aviation Administration already regulates helicopters.

The MHA opposes SB 674 as written, saying there aren’t appropriate state-issued safeguards defining a minimum level of care for the over 550,000 annual patients using air ambulances, such as lifesaving gear.

A study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University concluded CON laws result in an increase of $215 per capita in total health care spending and that CON-states have fewer hospitals in general in rural and nonrural areas.

The package was referred to the House.

– The Center Square

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.