SEATTLE, Wash. — The Washington State Supreme Court today unanimously invalidated the state Department of Health’s expanded Certificate of Need rule, which would have significantly increased the number and type of hospital transactions that require expensive and lengthy regulatory review before they are allowed to move forward.The decision states:
Therefore, the department exceeded its scope of authority by promulgating the New Rule because the New Rule expands the meaning of terms in RCW 70.38.105(4)(b) in a manner that is not consistent with the statute.…We hold that the department exceeded its statutory authority in promulgating the New Rule and the New Rule is consequentially invalid.
WSHA, supported by a number of health care provider groups, including physicians, nurse executives, and rural health care providers, argued that the DOH was going beyond the law’s authority and patient care would be negatively impacted. The Supreme Court agreed with WSHA and with the Thurston County Superior Court judge who made a similar ruling in June 2014 (see release here).
“We are extremely glad to have the Supreme Court’s ruling resolve this issue,” said WSHA President and CEO Scott Bond. “At a time when the Affordable Care Act is pushing health care providers to improve quality and reduce costs through affiliations and partnerships, it does not make sense to create new barriers. Now that we have clarity on the legal issues, we can all move forward.”
The association opposed the state’s 2013 rule, which would have greatly expanded the number and types of hospital business relationships subject to Certificate of Need review, including those where there was “any change of control” in “any part” of a hospital. WSHA stated, and the court agreed, that it was beyond the Department’s authority to expand the scope of the CN law.
“This has always been a question of legal interpretation, and has thankfully not affected our ability to work with the Department of Health on any of the other areas of common interest we have,” said Bond. “Through the course of this lawsuit, we have worked with DOH’s excellent leadership and staff members on issues such as Ebola response, perinatal health, population health, breastfeeding, patient privacy and the health care safety net in rural Washington. We share with them a commitment to building a stronger, healthier Washington, and we look forward to continuing to work with them.”
Read our Certificate of Need page for more information.