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Certificate of need may be on the chopping block, again

Sen. Ralph Hise doesn’t take no for an answer.

The Mitchell County Republican was close last year but unsuccessful pushing a bill to eliminate the state’s archaic certificate-of-need system, which limits competition in health care through tight restrictions. He vowed to take another whack at the sweeping reform. Last week he introduced Senate Bill 324 to do just that.

“This should end all CON as it exists effective on passage,” said Hise, co-chairman of both the Senate committees on health care, and appropriations for health and human services.

“I definitely have more support for it than I did last year,” Hise said.

In conversations with House counterparts and medical provider stakeholders, “I have yet to find any that tell me the future of health care is government agencies determining the amount of health care services we can receive,” Hise said. Even the state Department of Health and Human Services, which administers CON oversight, has cut 86 CON rules.

But longstanding foes of reform are resisting.

“Oh sure, particularly the hospitals, long-term care facilities, those kind of things. There’s some kind of immediate pushback, but we’ve been down that road before,” said Hise, who was joined by Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, as a primary sponsor.

One difference with this CON abolition is that it does not set a deadline for the law to end. Hise said he is considering a phased-in schedule letting affected providers and industries have enough time to recoup their investments.

Hise acknowledged entrenched interests would resist full repeal. An alternative scenario could allow more providers to compete in areas now restricted by CON so that eventual repeal is possible.

Another fallback position might be to exempt select areas, as happened last year when allowing the former Franklin Regional Medical Center in Louisburg to reopen with psychiatric inpatient beds that didn’t need CON approval.

Two other bills abolishing specific CON laws were introduced last week.

Senate Bill 330 sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, would exempt hospice inpatient facilities from CON regulations.

Senate Bill 349 sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, would exempt ophthalmologists from CON mandates so they could perform some eye surgeries in a surgical procedure room.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has done groundbreaking research on the negative effects of CON regulations on health care in North Carolina and other states. One study found higher death rates in several categories. Another found that, without CON laws, states would have more facilities, patient beds, and high-end diagnostic equipment.

Matthew Mitchell, a senior research fellow at Mercatus who has examined CON issues, said those laws restrict supply, “which economic theory tells us, and 40 years of data now confirm, is likely to limit access to care, diminish the quality of care, and increase the price of services.”

Barring newcomers from the health-care market explains why regulated industries tend to prefer CON, Mitchell said. Economists and antitrust authorities in the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission “have had a longstanding position that certificate of need unnecessarily cartelizes industries to the detriment of consumers and taxpayers.”

Mitchell said creating those cartels can help the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of the powerless.

“I would think both liberals and conservatives could coalesce around that.”

Indeed, Brown’s hospice bill has bipartisan support. Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, is one of two Democrats who signed on. The other is Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-Orange. Sens. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico, and Louis Pate, R-Wayne, also are co-sponsors.

Robinson said she has worked with hospice-care administrators in Greensboro, and has had friends and constituents who used its services.

“I know that it is important that we have capacity within those facilities, facilities like the one in Greensboro, and across the state so that loved ones can be properly taken care of,” Robinson said. “We should not have a limit on the beds that are available to take care of patients during those latter stages of life.”

But Linton Cooper, vice president of Transitions Life Care (formerly Hospice of Wake County), believes repealing CON regulations for inpatient hospice is bad public policy.

“The utilization of inpatient hospice beds has actually been declining across North Carolina, and that is reflective of the data across the United States,” said Cooper, also board chairman of the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina.

“Additionally, there is a process to request a CON certain special needs determination, and there are very few people who are asking for additional beds to be placed in their counties, which suggests that people already have excess capacity,” Cooper said.

Additional inpatient hospice bed allocations are available in Cumberland County, yet no applications have been submitted, he said.

“So when you have opportunities to build facilities, and no one is applying for them, that doesn’t suggest that there’s an unmet demand,” Cooper said.

Katherine Restrepo, director of health care policy at the John Locke Foundation, disagrees.

Health-care facilities and medical entrepreneurs, not the state, “should assess on their own terms whether there is in fact a market demand for medical services and facilities they wish to expand or construct to provide health care for patients in their communities,” Restrepo said.  

The state process to allot certificates “is largely outdated and contains loopholes, which create an unequal playing field” for select entities to offer more medical services or build new health care facilities in their local communities, she said.  

Restrepo said CON laws are a way for the status quo to keep out competition. “Who wouldn’t use that to their advantage?”

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2 New Penguins At Science Center

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The youngest penguins at the Greensboro Science Center joined the rest of the colony and they’re having no problem fitting in!

Simon was born in November and Sinclair was born in December.

Both penguins stayed out of the exhibit until their feathers came in — and they learned how to swim.

PREVIOUS STORY: Two Penguin Chicks Hatch At Greensboro Science Center

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The Man Responsible for the Iconic…

GREENSBORO, NC – You may or may not know the name Alexander Julian. But, if you’re a March Madness fan or a Tar Heels lover, it’s a name you should recognize.

Julian is the man responsible for the Tar Heels’ men’s iconic basketball jerseys.

In the late 1980s Julian, a designer on a business trip in London, received a call from none other than Dean Smith.

“Being born and raised in Chapel Hill, to have Coach Smith call you and ask you to do new uniforms for the Tar Heels was like, truly like God calling and asking for new halos for the archangels.”

Julian’s designs were already being recognized in the sports world by the time he talked to Smith.

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Morehead Elem. Students Get New Kicks

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A fresh pair of kicks can go a long way for a kids mindset.

And more than 100 Guilford County Students have new shoes that aren’t just for looks – they’re really needed!

The Non-profit running program called “GO Far’ donated new shoes to 103 students at Morehead Elementary School.

PE teacher Vicky Fowler says some students only have hand-me-down shoes – or need to borrow shoes for class.

The shoes were donated by Omega Sports of the Triad and New Balance.

Copyright 2017 WFMY

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Is THAT Picture A FAKE? How To Find Out.

GREENSBORO, NC — People take pictures of storms and their aftermath and post them. We use them. But every once in a while, someone sneaks in a picture that is not real.

A recent example was from the storm making it’s way to the Triad this week. When it passed through Texas, someone claimed to take a picture of a piece of hail the size of a softball. The meteorologist at WFAA caught it and explained why it couldn’t have been hail.

You might a scam alert on every picture you see posted. But you can do you’re own quick search to see if it is real before you decide to share or retweet it.

A reverse image Google search is easy to do.

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What Happens To Your FB, Email & iTunes?

GREENSBORO, NC — When you go on a trip, you do certain things before you leave. Maybe take some cash out. If you’re flying, you put all your liquids in a quart-sized bag. And you will your social media to someone. Oh, you don’t do that? You’re not alone.

According to a study done by AARP, 58% of Americans have not thought about what will happen to their digital contents if they die or become incapacitated.

We’re talking everything from the music you own on iTunes to all the pics you share on social media. It may not sound like a big deal, but if you don’t make a legacy contact on Facebook, your family will have no way to stop your page from being active or to have access to those pictures and posts.

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Guilford County 4-H won’t hold its competitive exhibits at the fair this year

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. – You’ll still find rides, fried food, games and music at this fall’s Central Carolina Fair. But if you want to compete in 4-H exhibits for best quilt or tastiest pie, you’ll have to look somewhere else. Guilford County 4-H won’t hold its competitive exhibits at the fair this year. The Greensboro Coliseum manages the fair, but Guilford County 4-H oversees the competitions. They were put on hold last year, while the coliseum’s new Fieldhouse, formally called […]
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