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6/21/2014 Assembly OKs 'Medical Technology Innovation Act'
Bill addresses certificate of need process, opens door to medical tourism industry
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has approved legislation designed to help expedite the Department of Health “certificate of need” process and to help open doors for domestic medical tourism companies to locate in Rhode Island.

The legislation, 2014-H 7368Baa by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and 2014-S 2526Aaa by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), was developed to address a specific situation that arose last year involving an out-of-state health care provider in its attempts to obtain a home nursing care provider’s license and meet other requirements set by the Department of Health.
“In looking into this particular issue, we discovered that, in some instances, our existing law was an impediment to providing good health care services to state residents,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the HEW Committee. “We discovered a process embroiled in bureaucracy and delays in responding to a new business entering Rhode Island. And we also discovered that existing law could be a major roadblock to firms involved in new, evolving kinds of healthcare services from coming to Rhode Island.”
“As we have tried to do with many other bills that have been passed by the General Assembly, we are attempting in this legislation to open doors to business in Rhode Island, to make it easier for businesses to open and operate in our state by eliminating or easing unnecessary and time-consuming regulatory processes,” said Senator Lynch, who has chaired a special Senate task force on small business.
The bill passed today addresses those issues.

Among the provisions of the legislation are:
In regard to the certificate of need process, it will provide for consideration of an expeditious review request and require that a decision in connection with that review be rendered within 30 days.
It will, under certain circumstances, provide an exemption from the certificate of need requirements to the domestic medical tourism industry and multi-practice health facilities.
It will reduce and restructure the composition of the Health Services Council from 24 to 12 members.
It will set a moratorium on all new healthcare services and equipment until July 1, 2015, during which time the Department of Health in conjunction with the Health Care Planning and Accountability Advisory Council will conduct a statewide healthcare utilization and capacity study and prepare a statewide healthcare plan and inventory of healthcare facilities, equipment and health services.
Two specific matters arose that prompted a renewed focus on the existing certificate of need process.
-- The Pentec company, based in Pennsylvania and a leader in providing specialized, in-home care to persons with implanted pain pumps, had been serving severely ill patients in Rhode Island at the request of Providence and Boston doctors, employing the services of an individual with a Rhode Island nursing license.
Pentec was subsequently directed by the Department of Health to obtain a certificate of need, offering proof its service was wanted, affordable and safe. The company was also asked to open a Rhode Island office, which it did at a cost of about $1,000 per month. But after spending about $100,000 trying to obtain state approval of an application for a home nursing care provider’s license, appearing a three hearings and waiting for seven months for a Health Department decision, the company withdrew its application and terminated its services in Rhode Island.

-- The Laser Spine Institute, which treats lumbar spine stenosis with minimally invasive surgery, is a national firm looking for a New England presence. Because of its proximity to Boston and New York, and because of Green Airport and Amtrak connection, the firm has expressed interest in locating in Warwick, bringing with it about 60 new jobs at LSI and approximately 300 indirect new jobs to the area.

Although it would be located in Rhode Island, the Laser Spine Institute says that typically 50 percent or more of its patients travel to their facilities from out-of-state, and some of them from out of the country. Because of that, the firm falls under different sort of healthcare services terminology – a domestic medical tourism industry – something not specifically addressed by Rhode Island law.

“The legislation that has been approved by the General Assembly will help to ensure that Rhode Islanders receive the kind of medical services they need and that government bureaucracy does not get in the way. We also want to allow the domestic medical tourism industry to see Rhode Island as a good place to open a facility, not only to make these services convenient for our citizens but also to help grow our economy,” said Representative McNamara.
“We want government to facilitate the ability of health care businesses to provide services to Rhode Islanders, not to get in the way of or in any way hinder those important services,” said Senator Lynch. “We believe this legislation fixes some of the antiquated procedures in place now and adds new terminology to the law to address the evolving healthcare delivery landscape.”
The legislation now goes to the governor for his consideration.

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457