McMaster signs repeal of ‘Certificate of Need’ law

State leaders believe a new law will make healthcare more accessible and affordable for South Carolinians.
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 12:41 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2023 at 9:17 PM EDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - State leaders believe a new law will make healthcare more accessible and affordable for South Carolinians.

Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremonial signing Tuesday to repeal the state’s Certificate of Need law, a bill that has been on the books since the 1970s.

The old law required anyone who wants to build or expand a hospital or even a facility that wants to purchase expensive medical equipment like an MRI machine must seek permission from the state through the Department of Health and Environmental Control to do so. Healthcare providers already in the area where the application is submitted then have the chance to block those plans from being approved.

The bill McMaster will sign Tuesday is called the “Healthcare Facility Licensure Act,” which would get rid of most of that process.

“This is a tremendous day for patients all across the state of South Carolina,” Sen. Wes Climer (R-York), the bill’s lead sponsor, said. “As a consequence of repealing certificate of need, they will have more choices. They will have lower costs.”

The state Senate passed the bill earlier this year and the House of Representatives approved an amended version in May. The Senate approved those changes. Supporters of the new bill say this will bring access to healthcare in rural parts of the state while also reducing costs by opening up South Carolina to more competition.

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current approval requirement in place to build new hospitals in counties that already have them, but that would also be repealed on Jan. 1, 2027.

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.

“There are opportunities which will be available to physicians and others throughout the state to increase medical care,” Greenville vascular surgeon Dr. Bruce Snyder said. “For your cardiologist or orthopedic surgeon to be able to invest in freestanding centers, to be able to order tests through systems that they are able to control, maximize productivity, I think it’s very obvious that it’ll increase the care.”

McMaster officially signed the bill into law in May, and since then, plans have already moved forward in some parts of the state to begin building new hospitals.

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