Not-for-profit hospitals in Georgia won the latest battle to preserve the state's strict certificate-of-need law.
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which wants the CON requirements relaxed so it can offer obstetric and open-heart services at its 10 Atlanta-area hospitals, lost again.
The Georgia House of Representatives last month rejected a bill to exempt obstetric and open-heart services from the CON law.
"Basically, we feel like this is really a vote of support for our community hospitals," said Kim Glaze, a lobbyist for the Georgia Alliance of Not-for-Profit Hospitals, which wanted to maintain service restrictions.
Columbia officials in Georgia were unavailable for comment.
For the past two years, Columbia has been trying to eliminate CON for obstetric and open-heart services so it can do business with managed-care payers, said John Hamilton, legal service officer with the Georgia State Health Planning Agency.
Columbia also has attempted to partner with several hospitals in Atlanta to give it needed obstetric and open-heart services. For various reasons, deals with 416-bed Crawford Long Hospital of Emory University and 592-bed Georgia Baptist Medical Center fell apart.
State Rep. E.M. "Buddy" Childers (D-Rome), who authored the CON relaxation bill, said hospital prices will remain high because of state regulation.
"We are trying to get the playing field level for as many hospitals as possible," he said. "It is about money. It is just that darn simple."
Hamilton, however, said the state believes there's sufficient competition in obstetric and open-heart services and that additional hospitals providing those services would reduce overall quality.