SC Senator Stands up to Hospital Lobby on Behalf of Patients

April 30, 2021

Ellen Weaver

Former President & CEO

What a week in the South Carolina General Assembly!

The most dramatic moment came on Wednesday, when Senator Wes Climer (R-York) took the well of the Senate, refusing to back down and leaving longtime defenders of a broken status quo with nowhere to go. The target of Climer’s ire? Antiquated state laws that kill competition in healthcare and drive up costs for patients known as Certificate of Need (CON). The Senator put it this way:

“I did not come here to represent the interests of hospitals. I came here to represent the interest of patients. This is a system, a process, that injures patients and supports fat profit margins for hospitals and it has to go.”

Also known as the “Competitor’s Veto” and “Certificate of Greed,” CON laws protect existing medical providers by requiring state approval for any new healthcare facility or certain types of equipment. That’s right: those already in the market can kill any competition by challenging their potential rival in court!

As healthcare costs continue to rise, it is patients who suffer the collateral damage of CON. One example Climer provided during his remarks came from a doctor in his district seeking to build an ambulatory service center in York County:

“It’s absolute nonsense that this physician who is trying to take care of his patients has to go hat-in-hand begging the government to invest in a new healthcare facility to care for the people he is already serving.”  

That’s why Palmetto Promise has called for the repeal of CON since early 2019 and full repeal is our #1 Healthcare priority in our Palmetto Playbook.

You can watch the highlight reel of Senator Climer’s remarks here:

A few additional takeaways:

  • Evidence from researchers show that CON both increases healthcare costs and decreases access to healthcare facilities in rural areas.
  • A review of projects stuck in the CON process in South Carolina make this clear. Currently, over 30 projects, some of which costing as little as $15,000, are either under appeal or awaiting a decision from DHEC.
  • CON laws amount to little more than regulatory “walls” protecting hospitals from competition.

The bill (S.290) sponsored by Senator Climer and others, which would repeal CON in its entirety, is now on the Senate calendar. To learn more about CON and how it negatively impacts the health of South Carolinians, click here to read our updated Fast Facts publication.