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02.09.2023 Legal News

Mark Your Calendar: Key Dates in NC Health Planning Process

North Carolina will kick off its health planning year when the State Health Coordinating Council (SHCC) convenes at the Brown Building in Raleigh at 10 a.m. on March 1, 2023. Read on to learn about the critical junctures in the planning year when providers have defined opportunities to weigh in on health planning in North Carolina.  

February 2023: The First Opportunity to Make a Difference Via The Spring Petition Process

Although March 1 at 5:00 p.m. is the official deadline to file a so-called “Spring Petition,” February is the time for a petitioner to consider and formulate a request to the State to modify or adopt a policy or methodology with potential statewide impact. Immediately following the March 1 meeting, a public hearing will offer a chance for any member of the public to remark on petitions or on any other matter relating to the development of next year’s State Plan. Because there is no series of hearings held on Spring Petitions, the March 1 public hearing represents the only opportunity for proponents to advocate for the changes described in their Spring Petitions. 

In past years, creative Spring Petitions have been submitted, and some have led to policies that have altered North Carolina’s health planning landscape. Many will recall Spring Petitions addressing everything from dialysis to surgery centers to MRI scanners.  Any provider interested in promoting a novel policy or asking for revisions to an existing policy should be mindful of the March 1 deadline.     

The two weeks following March 1 represent the next critical juncture in the planning year. During this window, those who support or oppose policy amendments can prepare written comments. Comments on Spring Petitions (or on any remarks offered at the March 1 public hearing) must be received by Healthcare Planning by 5:00 p.m. on March 15. 

The Committee Meetings & Release of the Draft State Plan

This year, the Acute Care Committee will conduct Tuesday meetings on April 4, May 16, and September 12. The Technology and Equipment Committee will hold Wednesday meetings on April 5, May 17, and September 13. The Long-Term and Behavioral Health Committee will conduct Thursday meetings on April 13, May 11, and September 14.

Each committee discusses the Agency Reports at the initial meeting in April, with a vote taken on a recommendation to be presented to the full SHCC. At the following meetings in May, interested parties will get their first look at the draft Need Determinations. A fully compiled draft of the State Plan is expected to be issued in early July.      

The May committee meetings represent a critical juncture in the planning process when providers first have an opportunity to analyze the proposed Need Determinations and consider the implications those Determinations have for different service offerings across North Carolina. The month of June (or more specifically, the time between mid-May and early July) is a pivotal period in which to analyze Need Determinations and consider the option to pursue one or more Summer Petitions. 

The SHCC Meetings

The full SHCC will initially convene on March 1, 2023, as noted above. Thereafter, the SHCC will conduct a meeting on May 31, after each of the committees has met in April. The final meeting of the SHCC, as described below, will take place on October 4, 2023, following the September committee meetings. While meetings of the full SHCC can give rise to important developments and an occasional “curve-ball,” most often the SHCC defers to the recommendations of its committees.     

June 2023: The Second Chance to Influence the State Plan via The Summer Petition Process

Unlike a Spring Petition, a Summer Petition seeks a specific adjustment to a Need Determination based on special “resource requirements” or circumstances that the Petitioner believes warrant an adjustment to a proposed Need Determination. Summer Petitions must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 26, 2023. Comments on Summer Petitions are due by 5:00 p.m. on August 9, 2023. 

Although July 26 is the official Summer Petition submission deadline, typically, petitioners should prepare Summer Petitions in June to allow an opportunity to present their requests during the series of summer hearings held throughout July. This year, the summer hearings will be held at 1:30 p.m. via WebEx on July 10, 12, 18, 20, 25, and 26.    

Because committee meetings are not “public hearings,” members of the public are not able to speak unless recognized or asked to respond to a committee member’s question. With that, the summer hearings represent the only viable chance for petitioners to advocate for desired changes to the State Plan’s proposed Need Determinations. 

The Summer Petition process otherwise mirrors the process from earlier in the year. The agency will issue a report on each petition, and the committees will meet in September to hear those reports and vote on recommendations to be presented to the full SHCC. 

The Final Steps

The SHCC meeting on October 4 will be the last public meeting of the planning season. Thereafter, planning staff will prepare and present the 2024 State Medical Facilities Plan to North Carolina’s governor. Typically, the governor signs the Plan near year-end, making the Plan the official planning resource for 2024. 

The Critical Junctures in the Planning Year

As noted, providers should be acting now to develop requests for new policies or policy changes, all of which will be considered at the March 1 meeting. The time immediately following March 1 is another critical time to offer comments (support or opposition) on proposed policies or policy amendments. Comments must be received by March 15.   

Once Spring Petitions are in and comments are filed, the public can only wait and watch the committee actions and recommendations in April. The month of May represents the next important period in the planning year when proposed Need Determinations are revealed at a series of committee meetings on May 11, 16, and 17. 

The month of June (specifically from mid-May through early July) is a critical period for providers to evaluate the draft Need Determinations and consider options for Summer Petitions. Summer Petitions should be readied in June to allow for participation in the series of public hearings throughout July. A final critical juncture comes in early August when supporting or opposing comments can be formulated on the Summer Petitions. Comments must be submitted by August 9.

Active participation in the planning process can allow providers a say not only in the policies that govern planning but also in the specific Need Determinations that will define the CON filing opportunities for 2024. Meaningful participation in the process requires keen attention to the critical junctures throughout the planning year when providers have allocated time-periods to evaluate and act in order to have their voices heard.   

For more information, please contact Joy Heath at (919) 981-4001 or