The Florida House on Wednesday easily passed a bill that would eliminate a controversial regulatory process for the approval of new hospitals.
House members voted 75-42, along almost straight party lines, to approve the bill (HB 7) to repeal what is known as the "certificate of need" process. House Republican leaders and Gov. Rick Scott have pushed to eliminate the process, though the Senate version of the bill (SB 676) has not been heard in committees.
The so-called CON process requires hospitals to get approval from the state Agency for Health Care Administration before they can build facilities or add types of programs — and often results in litigation that pits hospitals against each other.
Supporters of the bill argued for taking a more free-market approach, with Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, saying the CON process is a "weapon" used to suppress competition in the hospital industry. But Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables, argued that health care is not a free market, citing examples such as a federal law that requires hospitals to treat any patients who show up at emergency rooms.
Baez also contended that eliminating the CON process would lead to the construction of new hospitals that would siphon paying patients from long-established hospitals.
Only two House members crossed party lines, with Republicans Don Hahnfeldt of The Villages and Kathleen Peters of Treasure Island voting against the bill.