COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — The South Carolina Senate debated a bill that would repeal the ‘Certificate of Need’ program in South Carolina Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation was introduced in 2021. It was given special order by Senators on Tuesday and is the first piece of legislation debated on the Senate floor in 2022.

‘Certificate of Need’ regulations were put into place by the federal government in the 1970s. According to DHEC, the purpose of CON laws is to promote cost containment, prevent unnecessary duplication of health care facilities and services.

Right now, if a healthcare provider in South Carolina wants to add beds, build a new facility or purchase expensive medical equipment, they need to go state health officials for approval.

Competitors can appeal these requests, slowing down the process.

Supporters of a repeal said in a press conference Wednesday this is limiting access to healthcare. Dr. Rob Brown, an ear nose and throat specialist from the Upstate and a member of the South Carolina Medical Association said, “Imagine if we had CON for the grocery industry and Farmer Smith decided he wanted to sell corn or tomatoes and other produce. What if Publix and Harris Teeter voiced concerns and said ‘we object.’…It’s simply not fair.”

The South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) said they agree CON laws need to be updated. They don’t believe a full repeal of the law is needed.

SCHA Executive Vice President Christian Soura said, “We think the program certainly needs to be streamlined and modernized. Right now, those applications take too long to be processed. It’s an appeals process that could go on for years. We agree communities need answers faster than that.”

SCHA says a repeal of CON could impact indigent care as well.

The bill’s sponsor Senator Wes Climer of York County

The Senate adjourned Wednesday without voting on S.290. Debate is expected to last a few days.