The majority of the recommendations coming from the House Rural Development Council recently focused on health care and economic growth. Tuesday, following these recommendations, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) appointed a Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care for the 2019-2020 legislative term.

“For years we have wrestled with how to maintain access to quality, affordable health care throughout our state – particularly in our rural areas,” said Speaker Ralston. “It is my view that we must have a proper forum to discuss any proposed changes to our healthcare regulations including our Certificate of Need (CON) program. I believe strongly that this issue must be given the deliberate and careful examination it deserves.”

In their recommendations, the House Rural Development Council — co-chaired by State Representatives Terry England (R-Auburn) and Jay Powell (R-Camilla) — called for legislation that would eliminate the “certificate of need” or CON process and replace it with a “rigorous accreditation and licensing process for new providers.”

Under current law, anyone who wants to open or expand a hospital or substantial medical provider has to get permission from the state, or a CON. Under the proposed recommendations, new providers in a 10-county Atlanta would not go through a license review once accreditation is obtained. However, outside that area, or within 20 miles of any existing hospital, there would be a “rigorous” process to apply for a license from the state.”

The council also recommended legislation that would increase the cap on the Rural Hospital Tax Credit to $100 million, and require the Department of Community Health to provide and post on their website a list of qualifying hospitals in need of financial support.

The Special Committee will be chaired by Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus). Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) will serve as Vice-Chair of the Special Committee. The other members of the committee are:

· Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler)

· Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park)

· Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens)

· Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin)

· Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville)

· Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth)

· Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta)

· Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange)

· Rep. Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro)

· Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn)

· Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta)

· Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany)

· Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus)

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