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Fla. governor pushes for healthcare reform, removal of state restrictions

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Fla. governor pushes for healthcare reform, removal of state restrictions

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to give state hospitals the freedom to add beds without state review, along with a host of other healthcare reforms.

On Jan. 24 he announced an agenda for the state Legislature that includes the removal of Florida's certificate of need, or CON, program, the current requirement that healthcare facilities in the state prove a need for more beds before adding them.

He has also proposed a repeal of the statewide cap on trauma centers, currently numbering 44, in favor of a "free-market approach."

"I've traveled across our state and spoken with Floridians who have been charged unconscionable prices for procedures. The way patients are charged for services at the hospital should mirror a free market system," Scott said in a statement.

He said the reforms would be sponsored by state Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Alex Miller.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, or NCSL, 14 states currently have no CON program. The programs were originally put in place by a federal law that was repealed in 1987, leaving states to make decisions for hospital funding and expansion needs. The NCSL says that remaining CON programs generally focus on outpatient facilities and long-term care, due to a larger trend toward freestanding, physician-owned facilities.

Scott called the CON program outdated and said its removal will increase competition and eliminate government restrictions on the availability of healthcare services. The governor said that he will continue pushing legislation to provide patients with anticipated costs and boost healthcare transparency overall.

Last year, Scott signed House bills 1175 and 221 to require practitioners and insurers to disclose certain costs to patients, and in the case of H.B. 221, to require specified health insurance plans to provide coverage for Down Syndrome treatment.

Scott, a Republican and the former CEO of the hospital operator now known as HCA Holdings Inc., has previously voiced his support for the repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act, calling it a "terrible notion" that focused on access rather than high costs, in a Nov. 30, 2016, USA Today editorial.