When we last looked at the matter, Nikki Haley had vetoed funding for the certificate of need process that state law requires before new health facilities can be built and operate — leaving DHEC with an unfunded mandate, and SC hospitals in limbo on major plans.
Her action exhibited a blithe destructiveness across a wide spectrum, from public health policy through economic development.
And the stupid House failed to override her.
Today, it all got crazier:
S.C. hospitals, nursing homes and physicians can go ahead with plans for expansion or adding services without state approval after a program was not funded next year.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will suspend the Certificate of Need program on Monday, agency director Catherine Templeton said in a letter.
The state House upheld a veto by Gov. Nikki Haley over $1.7 million in funding for the program this week.
“DHEC has no independent authority to expend state funds for Certificate of Need, and therefore, the veto completely suspends the program for the upcoming fiscal year,” Templeton said.
The agency will not take action against any work done while the program is suspended unless told to do so by the General Assembly, Templeton said…
Wow. So… hospitals are just supposed to go ahead with multi-million-dollar projects without going through the approval process that the law still requires, funding or no funding, and not worry about any future legal ramifications? Really?
Then this afternoon, this release came out:
Chairman Brian White and Representative Murrell Smith of the House Ways and Means Committee Issue a Statement Regarding Governor Haley’s Certificate of Need (CON) Veto
(Columbia, SC) – On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the South Carolina House of Representatives sustained Governor Haley’s budget veto number twenty by a vote of 56-65. The effect of this veto reduced general fund support for the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Certificate of Need (CON) Program by over $1.4 million.
“The House of Representatives did not intend to eliminate the CON Program or its statutory requirements. In fact, the House believes there are a number of ways for the CON Program to retain its function and purpose. The Governor has the sole power to appoint DHEC’s governing board and is ultimately charged with enforcing the CON law. If the Governor and the agency director wish to unilaterally discontinue the program, as they have indicated, then that is a decision that lies exclusively within the executive branch and one which may be contrary to law but is certainly contrary to the will and intent of the House of Representatives.”
# # #
OK, that release is really badly worded, especially that last sentence. But what the lawmakers appear to be saying is that even though they went along with cutting the funding, they had NOT meant for DHEC to ignore the law — they had meant for it to find the money somewhere to continue the program. Which, of course, was grossly irresponsible on the part of lawmakers — they should have overridden. One of the least defensible dodges of irresponsible legislators is the old “Oh, find the money somewhere” gag. When, you know, they’re the ones who decide what gets funded and what doesn’t.
This is some bad craziness, people. I would think that Ms. Templeton were doing this outrageous thing as a protest of the governor’s irresponsibility, if she weren’t like, you know, the gov’s protege.
The only thing I can think of to fix this problem is the same thing that Joel Lourie is suggesting — that the General Assembly should go back into session to fix the problem and appropriate the funding for the program.
It’s a lot of trouble to go to, but this is a serious matter. One knowledgeable observer (which means, “someone who understands the world a lot better than our governor does”) said to me today, “I suspect there’s going to be a very interesting lawsuit here.”
Hey, more than just one. I can see hospitals suing each other, subcontractors suing contractors when work is started then halted, just a free-for-all.
This is amazing.