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Virginia Hospital Lobby Goes Against GOP 

Counters calls of Republican legislators for free market to determine hospital services.

Virginia hospitals are butting heads with Republican state lawmakers on how much to cut through the red tape that determines when and where new medical facilities are built.

Current requirements call for state officials to sign off on whether new medical facilities would be accessible to area residents, create immediate impact and be financially feasible. Most important, it must be proven that the surrounding areas served need enhanced facilities.

But several GOP legislators say the process of getting a certificate of public need, known as a COPN, impedes the creation of a more free-market-oriented health system. They've proposed bills to gradually phase out Virginia’s public need laws or eliminate requirements for certain facilities.

But in a statement following the first lobby day for hospitals at Capitol Square on Wednesday, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association says that while such laws need to be reformed, they are necessary to keep health care costs down.

The organization also says that the process prevents “over expansion that the market can’t support” and ensures that more than just the most profitable services are offered to a community.

“Eliminating COPN would weaken hospitals throughout Virginia by allowing entrants to cherry pick and provide only the most profitable types of care, making the remainder of services and community needs -- services that often operate at a loss -- the full burden of the community hospital,” says Mary N. Mannix, vice chairwoman of the hospital association board of directors.

Also on Wednesday, Republican legislators dug in their heels against Medicaid expansion. In a news conference, they denounced a bid by hospitals to kick in part of the cost to take the burden off of state coffers.

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