An omnibus health-care bill approved Thursday by a House committee could clear the way for UF Health Jacksonville to build a disputed hospital in northern Duval County.
The bill (HB 7113) would create an exemption to what is known as the state’s “certificate of need” process, which helps determine whether hospitals and other types of health facilities can be built.
The exception includes narrowly written criteria and does not mention a particular hospital. But a House staff analysis and Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said it could apply to UF Health Jacksonville, who wants to add a hospital near Jacksonville International Airport.
The project has faced opposition from Jacksonville’s Memorial Hospital, with whom an administrative law judge sided with in December 2012.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration late last year gave preliminary approval to a certificate of need for the UF Health Jacksonville project. That prompted Memorial to file another challenge in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, with a judge expected to hold a hearing in June.
Jones said UF Health Jacksonville serves large numbers of uninsured patients and Medicaid beneficiaries and that the additional hospital could attract more insured patients. She said that could help offset the costs of providing indigent care at the already-existing hospital.
“We can’t afford in Jacksonville to lose the services they provide,’’ Jones said.