Today, in Washington State Hospital Association v. Washington State Department of Health, the WA Supreme Court held that the 2013 expansion of rules that require Department of Health approval for certain types of hospital ownership changes exceeded the agency’s authority. The “certificate of need” (CON) review process is triggered by the “sale, purchase, or lease” of a hospital, and the rule at issue defined that term more broadly, to include other transactions changing control over a hospital—for example, through a new affiliation or corporate restructuring.
Legal Voice joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, MergerWatch, and Compassion & Choices of Washington in submitting an amicus brief supporting the agency’s authority for the new rule. The brief argued that including a broader group of transactions was necessary to achieve the stated purpose of the CON program, to provide accessible health care services to patients throughout Washington—particularly given the reduction of accessible health care services that has already resulted from the recent surge in religious and secular mergers or affiliations in Washington State and across the country. The brief noted that these affiliations between religious and secular health care entities have led to a decline in the availability of reproductive services due to religious-based, restrictive policies. These changes have disproportionately impacted rural and low-income women, who often must travel long distances to receive care denied to them by religiously-affiliated providers.
Legal Voice will continue to advocate for greater transparency and oversight of hospital transactions, as these have great impacts on patients’ access—and often entire communities’ accessto non-discriminatory, reproductive health and end-of-life care.