Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Economic development groups oppose West Virginia Certificate of Need bill


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Record

WHEELING, W.Va.  — Economic development groups continue criticizing Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns’ bill that would eliminate West Virginia’s certificate of need program regulating who provides which health care services throughout the state.

For example, Craig O’Leary, program director of the Regional Economic Development Partnership in Wheeling, says eliminating the program will harm hospitals that are its area’s largest employers.

It will affect hospitals’ “ability to compete fairly with out-of-state health care providers” O’Leary said, referring to those who might bring health care businesses into the state.

The partnership serves a region that contains four hospitals, O’Leary states in a letter sent to Ferns earlier this month. The area also competes with Ohio and Pennsylvania at its borders.

“In fact, the largest two employers in Ohio County are both hospitals,” he said of Wheeling Hospital and Ohio Valley Medical Center. “As you well know, the impact of hospitals and health care on the region cannot be overstated.”

Meanwhile, Ferns is promoting his bill, Senate Bill 457, by distributing to each senator research reports regarding certificate of need programs in West Virginia and states nationwide.

Last week, Ferns placed a Department of Justice report on each senator’s desk, and on Monday, he did the same with an American Medical Association report.

Those reports say eliminating the certificate of need requirement will lead to more competition and, thus, higher-quality health services and access to those services, Ferns said.

The bill remains in its first committee assignment: Senate Health and Human Resources, where it’s been since Feb. 27, according to the West Virginia Legislature website. It calls for eliminating the program, oversight of which is the last remaining duty of the West Virginia Hospital Authority.

Ferns said he based his legislation on the findings in 40 different pieces of information, including research articles and reports, and expert testimony.

“All are relating to CON, and ineffectiveness of the programs” and recommend repealing it, he said Monday during a Senate floor session. The literature shows “no evidence that (the program) has controlled health care costs. … However, it has kept hospital costs high. It’s not an incentive to promote quality care. It limits patient choice,” he said.

The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle also sent a letter this month to Ferns in opposition to his bill.

“The existing CON requirement, simply written, levels the playing field for health care providers who want to operate in West Virginia,” BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford states.

West Virginia taxes in-state hospitals and health care providers more than surrounding states’ tax structures do their own, similar businesses, he said, leaving West Virginia’s in-state hospitals at a competitive disadvantage.

“If CON is eliminated, any competing hospital or health care service could open in our community, regardless if there is a need for the service. This means, without any investment in our community, services currently provided by Weirton Medical Center could be duplicated and hospitals across West Virginia … would be put at risk,” Ford’s letter states.

Weirton Medical Center is the largest employer in the are the BDC covers: Hancock and Brooke counties.

Earlier this month, during Hospital Day at the Legislature in Charleston, Wheeling Hospital officials voiced their opposition to the bill.

Ferns said the certificate of need program is limiting competition, leading West Virginia to have the seventh-highest per-capita health care cost in the country, and less access to health care.

See more from The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Record

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address