To combat COVID-19, Florida must suspend its Certificate of Need Laws


Today, in support of Brewster Ambulance Service, PLF called on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to suspend the state’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) requirement for ambulances. That law puts the interests of incumbent providers above Florida entrepreneurs and consumers and blocks health care providers from providing vital services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brewster is a family-owned business that provides transportation by ambulance and handicapped-accessible vans in Collier County, Florida. Looking to expand its service area, Brewster applied for a Certificate to operate in neighboring Lee County last year. Under these laws, which are sometimes called “Certificate of Need” or “CON” laws in other states, applicants not only must satisfy health and safety criteria; they also must demonstrate that there is a “need” for their service. But what’s worse is that the existing businesses can protest any application and argue that competition is not necessary. Local bureaucrats denied Brewster’s application after deciding that another ambulance business was not needed there. There’s currently only one ambulance provider in the entire county.

CON laws are irrational under normal circumstances, but they are particularly unreasonable during a global pandemic when entrepreneurs in all fields need the flexibility to adapt to quickly changing conditions.

PLF has challenged CON laws in several states across many industries, including the ambulance industry. Brewster shares the same story as PLF’s client Phillip Truesdell and his family-run ambulance company Legacy Medical Transport. Phillip was denied a Certificate to operate in Kentucky after existing providers protested his company’s application. PLF’s lawsuit argues that Kentucky’s law, and others like it, deprive entrepreneurs of their constitutional right to earn a living free of arbitrary government interference.

Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia currently have CON laws for various medical services. Because CON laws prevent health care providers from rapidly purchasing equipment, building new facilities, or expanding their services, the outbreak of COVID-19 has quickly brought to light the irrationality of these laws. Eighteen states have suspended their CON laws since the pandemic began. PLF is hopeful Governor DeSantis will do the same so that health care entrepreneurs can provide services based on consumer demand, rather than on bureaucratic whim.