Under the Dome

State cat bill replaced by hospital deregulation plan in Senate

N.C. Senate leaders are again pushing a plan to phase out regulations for creating and expanding new hospital and health care facilities.

The Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday replaced a bill that would have named a state cat with legislation that would eliminate the Certificate of Need program that regulates the placement of new health care facilities. The requirements would be eliminated by 2021.

The Senate put a similar proposal in its budget proposal last year, but the provision didn’t get support from House leaders and wasn’t included in the final budget.

Dropping Certificate of Need is opposed by the N.C. Hospital Association, which says looser regulations would allow doctors to perform profitable procedures outside hospitals – making it harder for hospitals to provide charity care.

Senate leaders say the certificate process stifles competition and consumers would benefit from looser regulations.

The Certificate of Need legislation was withdrawn from the Rules Committee without a vote and now heads to the Senate Health Committee.

Putting the legislation in an existing House bill speeds the legislative process and avoids bill filing deadlines. The original bill, which the House approved last year, would have named the bobcat the official state cat, fulfilling a request from an elementary school class.

Senate leaders rolled out the new bill in a small committee room without a system to stream the meeting audio online. A News & Observer reporter was barred from attending the meeting because the room reached capacity well before the scheduled start time. The bill was not made available online, but WRAL posted a copy.