Hospitals Just Got Easier to Build in West Virginia

West Virginia just repealed their Certificate of Need requirement for hospitals and birthing centers. Until now anyone wanting to open or expand a hospital needed to apply to a state board for permission. The process took time and money and could result in the board saying “no thanks, we don’t think the state needs another hospital”.

Now anyone wanting to open or expand a hospital and birthing center can skip this step and get to work. This means more facilities and more competition, which in turn leads to lower health care spending relative to trend.

Of course, the rest of West Virginia’s Certificate of Need requirements remain in place; if you want to open many other type of health care facilities, or purchase major equipment like an MRI, you must still get the state board to approve its “necessity”. In some cases, you shouldn’t even bother applying; West Virginia has a Moratorium on opioid treatment programs. Ideally West Virginia would join its neighbor Pennsylvania in a complete repeal of Certificate of Need requirements.

But making it easier to build hospitals and birthing centers is a major step. Hospitals are the largest single component of health spending in the US, and improved facilities might help reduce West Virginia’s infant mortality from its current level as the 4th worst state.

Update 4/7/23: A knowledgable correspondent suggests that the law may only allow existing hospitals to expand without CON (while totally new hospitals would still require one), citing this article. The text of the bill itself seems ambiguous to me. The section “Exemptions from certificate of need” adds “Hospital services performed at a hospital”. For birthing centers by contrast, new construction is clearly now allowed by right: exemptions from CON now include “Constructing, developing, acquiring, or establishing a birthing center”.

One thought on “Hospitals Just Got Easier to Build in West Virginia

  1. Scott Buchanan April 10, 2023 / 8:32 pm

    It will be interesting to see how many new facilities get built, considering how many rural hospitals have closed and will close:

    Maybe we just have to roll with the general movement from rural to urban/suburban areas, and let the rural hospitals and communities die, and build more facilities near cities where more people live? (I don’t know, I have no expertise here).


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