(1) INTENT.—It is the Legislature’s intent that, to the extent necessary to foster the development of rural health networks as provided for in s. 381.0406, competitive market forces shall be replaced with state regulation, as provided for in this section. It is also the intent of the Legislature that consolidation of network hospital services or technologies undertaken pursuant to this section, and cooperative agreements between members of rural health networks, shall not violate the state’s antitrust laws when such arrangements improve the quality of health care, moderate cost increases, and are made between members of rural health networks as defined in s. 381.0406. It is also the intent of the Legislature that such arrangements be protected from federal antitrust laws, subject to the approval and supervision of the Department of Health. Such intent is within the public policy of the state to facilitate the provision of quality, cost-efficient medical care to rural patients. (2) DEPARTMENT APPROVAL.—Providers who are members of certified rural health networks who seek to consolidate services or technologies or enter into cooperative agreements shall seek approval from the Department of Health, which may consult with the Department of Legal Affairs. The department shall determine that the likely benefits resulting from the agreement outweigh any disadvantages attributable to any potential reduction in competition resulting from the agreement and issue a letter of approval if, in its determination, the agreement reduces or moderates costs and meets any of the following criteria:
(a) Consolidates services or facilities in a market area used by rural health network patients to avoid duplication;
(b) Promotes cooperation between rural health network members in the market area;
(c) Encourages cost sharing among rural health network facilities;
(d) Enhances the quality of rural health care; or
(e) Improves utilization of rural health resources and equipment.
(3) STATE OVERSIGHT.—The Department of Health shall review each agreement approved under this section at least every 2 years. If the department determines that the likely benefits resulting from its state action approval no longer outweigh any disadvantages attributable to any potential reduction in competition resulting from the agreement, the department shall initiate proceedings to terminate its state action approval governing the agreement. Such termination proceeding shall be governed by chapter 120.
(4) JUDICIAL REVIEW.—Any applicant aggrieved by a decision of the Department of Health shall be entitled to both administrative and judicial review thereof in accordance with chapter 120. In such review, the decision of the department shall be affirmed unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or it is not in compliance with this section.
(5) RULEMAKING.—The Department of Health, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, shall establish rules necessary to implement this section.