Plan to ease restrictions on same-day surgery centers in NC to get more study

relder@newsobserver.comMay 15, 2013 

— A proposal to exempt same-day surgery centers from portions of the state’s certification process will be deferred for a year while a study committee takes an in-depth look at state and federal regulation of medical facilities.

Rep. Mark Hollo, chairman of the state House Health and Human Services Committee, said the original bill was amended to give lawmakers more time to gather information about the complex certificate-of-need process before making any changes.

“The original bill was controversial,” said Hollo, a Republican from Taylorsville. “People were concerned, so we were not ready to put it through without more study.”

House Bill 177 was originally written to exempt certain single-specialty surgical facilities, such as outpatient orthopedic and ophthalmology centers, from having to obtain a certificate of need from the state Department of Health and Human Services. The certificate is required before medical facilities such as hospital rooms and surgical centers can begin accepting patients.

DHHS officials say that process prevents unnecessary duplication of medical facilities and is intended to keep costs down, but supporters of the bill to exempt same-day surgery centers maintain that the process limits competition and drives patient bills even higher.

The N.C. Hospital Association lobbied heavily against the original bill, sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh. Backers included the N.C. Orthopaedic Association and the State Employees Association.

Hollo said members of the Health and Human Services Committee want to know more about the certificate of need process “and why it is used in some states and not others” before making any changes.

The bill to set up a legislative research committee was approved in the House on Tuesday by a vote of 112-2. If it passes the Senate, the special committee would be appointed by the speaker and begin meeting later this year, Hollo said.

He said there will be opportunities for both proponents and opponents of the certificate of need requirements for same-day surgery centers to speak before the study committee.

“After looking at it more deeply and in more detail, the committee will recommend what it feels should occur,” Hollo said.

According to the House bill, the special committee will focus its research on “federal and state barriers to a market-based health care delivery system.” It also will be asked to compare services provided by hospital-based operating rooms with those offered through ambulatory surgical centers.

Ambulatory surgery centers have expanded across the country, along with the trend toward shorter post-operative hospital stays and increases in outpatient surgeries. There are 114 such centers in North Carolina, according to a report by Strategic Healthcare Consultants.

Elder: 919-829-4528

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