Kemp signs measure to reform Georgia’s certificate of need law

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(The Center Square) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed several health care-related bills during a Friday ceremony in Athens, including a measure to relax state requirements regulating health care facilities.

The centerpiece of the bills the Republican governor signed was House Bill 1339, which reforms Georgia’s decades-old certificate of needs requirement. The measure, in part, shortens the time for hospital application reviews and expands the rural hospital tax credit program.

“Today is a momentous day for Georgians across our state who will soon have greater access to health care and personalized treatment,” Americans for Prosperity-GA State Director Tony West said in a statement. He added that the day “will be remembered for years to come as the first step leading to the full repeal of Certificate of Need.”

West called out Augusta resident Katie Chubb, whose effort to open a birth center in the Garden City was stymied by CON, saying her “passion, knowledge, and commitment” helped lead to a CON exemption for freestanding birth centers.

In a statement, state Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, called the legislation “a bold step in the right direction” while recognizing “there is no one-size-fits-all solution to health care.”

Monty Veazey, president and CEO of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, similarly lauded the governor for signing the legislation. However, he called on policymakers to wait to make additional changes until they understand the bill’s impact.

“We are pleased to see Governor Kemp sign House Bill 1339, which will streamline Certificate of Need processes for hospitals, especially in the areas of new equipment, infrastructure improvements, and behavioral health,” Veazey said in a statement. “We hope this bill will be allowed to take effect for several years before being revisited, to see how it affects health care and patient outcomes.

“We are grateful especially for the leadership of House Rules Committee Chair Butch Parrish, who worked on the bill for the better part of the last year, incorporated many suggestions for improvement from stakeholders, and shepherded it to passage,” Veazey added. “We are excited about the creation of the Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission to explore Medicaid expansion and how best to expand health coverage to the many uninsured Georgians. This could herald a new era for Georgia health care and help hospitals – especially rural hospitals – continue to serve their patients and improve their outcomes.

Kemp also signed HB 82, which amends the rural physician tax credit; HB 872, which expands a cancelable loan program for health care providers to include dental students; Senate Bill 480, which establishes a student loan repayment for mental health and substance use professionals; SB 293, which revises the selection and qualifications of district health directors; and SB 377, which updates the definition of qualified residential treatment programs.

“The reforms in this bill are critical first steps to removing barriers to quality health care created by Georgia’s antiquated CON laws,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones, a Republican, said in a statement.