MacDonald bill part of effort to reduce medical costs, increase access to care

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Michael D. MacDonald’s legislation as part of a five-bill package to cut unnecessary red tape, reduce costs and improve access to medical care in Michigan.

Senate Bill 674 would repeal the certificate of need requirement for air ambulance services.

“Access to modern emergency services like air ambulances can mean the difference between life and death,” said MacDonald, R-Macomb Township. “We should be doing what we can to help health care providers offer lifesaving medical services. My bill would eliminate burdensome regulations for air ambulances in Michigan and help increase the availability of these critical services for Michigan and Macomb families.”

An air ambulance is a helicopter specially outfitted to transport injured or sick people in a medical emergency. It is used in situations in which a conventional ground ambulance would be unreasonable or unsuccessful.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration regulates and oversees the operation of air ambulances, as of 2016, Michigan was one of only five states that also regulated air ambulances under CON laws. The other states are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont.

A certificate of need (CON) is an authorization that enables the establishment or expansion of health care facilities or services in Michigan. A commission appointed by the governor oversees the CON standards, which regulates a variety of specialized medical services and proposed increases in the number of hospital, nursing home and psychiatric beds.

Four other bills in the package were approved on Wednesday. SB 669 would eliminate covered capital expenditures from the CON process. SBs 672 and 673 would repeal the CON requirement for psychiatric beds and would require, as a condition of licensure, a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric unit to accept public patients and maintain 50% of beds available to public patients. SB 671 would add two new public members to the CON commission and make it easier to appoint members to standard advisory committees.

The bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.