Bill to repeal South Carolina’s hospital approval law headed to governor

Healthcare in South Carolina could become more affordable and accessible with the signature of Gov. Henry McMaster.
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 8:51 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Healthcare in South Carolina could become more affordable and accessible with the signature of Gov. Henry McMaster.

A bill will soon be on his desk to repeal most of the state’s Certificate of Need law, which has been on the books since the 1970s.

Under that law, if someone wants to build or expand a hospital, or even if a facility wants to purchase expensive medical equipment, like an MRI machine, they have to receive permission from the state through DHEC.

Healthcare providers that are already in that area can then try to block those plans from being approved.

This bill, called the “Healthcare Facility Licensure Act,” would get rid of most of that process.

After senators passed the legislation earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved an amended version of it this week. Senators concurred with those changes to send the bill to the governor.

“I’m just glad that we’ve gotten to a place where patients get a huge win today in the General Assembly, where we’re expanding patient choice, expanding the competition, expanding the marketplace for healthcare services, so patients have more options at a lower cost,” Sen. Wes Climer, R-York and the bill’s lead sponsor, said.

Under the bill, most provisions would immediately go into place and no longer require state approval.

That includes building new ambulatory surgery centers and doctor’s offices, repealing a $600,000 equipment purchase cap for hospitals, and moving a hospital to a new facility in the same county as its current one, without increasing the number of beds.

It would also allow new hospitals to be built in the eight South Carolina counties that currently do not have one without needing DHEC’s signoff.

The bill would temporarily keep in place the current approval requirement in place to build new hospitals in counties that already have them, but that would also be repealed January 1, 2027.

“For a lot of our hospitals, it takes that long just to get permits, plans drawn up, so it’s really not that long of an extended period of time when we think about the forecasting and the long-term planning that our hospitals do have to do. And this is also a model that other states have done,” Americans for Prosperity State Director Candace Carroll said. The group had advocated for the legislation’s passage.

Nursing homes that want to build or expand also have get state permission, but the bill would leave that current requirement in place because of federal regulations surrounding those facilities.

More than a dozen other states have already totally or partially done away with their certificate of need requirements.

“Everyone has come together on this issue and said, ‘We want to do something for healthcare in South Carolina. We don’t want to be at the bottom of the list. We want to have a healthy constituency across the state,’ and this is a way to do that,” Carroll said.