The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday February 4th

From state cats to CAT scans: House Bill 161

The system which the bill would implement aims to control healthcare costs by keeping duplicate medical facilities from popping up in the same area. The certificate of need law, or CON, requires that health providers apply for these official certificates to establish themselves in a new area.

But patients and groups in the state, like Reform Con Now, argue the eliminated competition limits patients’ choices and drives up costs. The law’s supporters argue it keeps hospitals from buying unnecessary equipment and charging more because of it.

State Senator Ralph Hise called it an antiquated law, saying the hospital is one of the state’s largest employers, yet has some of the most “restrictive regulations.”

But Dean Harris, a UNC public health professor, argues the real root of the Certificate of Need legislation deals with who would be affected if CON legislation is removed from the state. Harris argues repealing the law would hurt hospitals that primarily serve low-income patients and those who cannot afford to pay — repealing CON would allow for-profit clinics and other medical facilities to open much easier than before.

“If you’re a for-profit hospital, you’re primarily going to take care of the people who can afford to pay, but if you’re a hospital that takes care of people who cannot afford to pay, you need to see patients who can pay — to afford to stay open,” Harris said.

Harris said the federal government financially incentivized states to adopt CON legislation decades ago but have recently stopped the funding for these programs. As that funding stopped, states began to repeal CON legislation.

Senate Rules Committee Chair Tom Apodaca announced the move to a packed room in the Capitol’s legislative building, where many attendees were interested to see where the cat bill would head. The latest discussion of the bill happened June 14, but it has yet been put to a vote.

The idea to gut and amend the bill did not come up until the last five minutes of the meeting. Before, the committee discussed cutting funding to a grant program at the coast, vehicle inspections and distilleries’ ability to sell certain amounts of liquor.

The last-minute move to potentially overhaul a large part of the state’s healthcare system is likely to be discussed next week, Hise said.


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