RALEIGH – Though state lawmakers usually profess a desire to keep policy items out of the biennial budget legislation, the appropriations bills totaling hundreds of pages reliably include some policy provisions. Conservative groups are sending word out that this year’s budget could include at least a partial repeal of North Carolina’s antiquated Certificate of Need (CON) laws. These laws, originally implemented to regulate new and expanding healthcare facilities, serve to stifle competition and result in higher prices and reduced access because they arbitrarily restrict providers from opening new facilities or expanding services (MRI scans) at existing ones.
Dear [Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association] Members and Friends,
I just got an email from our friend, Jay Singleton. Jay is an ophthalmologist here in New Bern, and he’s worked long and hard on a cause dear to CCTA members. CCTA has worked to get rid of the Certificate of Need (CON) laws thus freeing up the market for competition involving expensive medical equipment, ambulatory surgery, and the like. This will result in lower costs and more choices for patients.
Jay let us know that there is a chance for the removal of Certificate of Need requirements to end up in the NC budget. Senator Berger and Speaker Moore are negotiating on that topic now.
Please, call Speaker Moore (919-733-3451), and ask him to please help patients lower their health care costs by eliminating the need for Certificates of Need for ambulatory surgery centers during the budgeting process.
Also, please call Senator Berger (919-733-5708) and thank him for his support for eliminating the CON requirement for ambulatory surgery centers via the budget.
You might want to mention how well free market competition works to lower costs and increase choice when it is allowed to work.
Several members of the N.C. Senate have repeatedly, but to no avail, introduced legislation repealing part or all of the CON law regime. Such efforts are always fought tooth and nail by the hospital lobby, whose interest is in keeping competition, like ambulatory surgery centers, at bay via government regulation.
The N.C. House has found even less appetite for repealing the laws, despite the evidence that they do nothing but inflate prices and reduce access. Not to mention the Big Government issue of telling a doctor or medical provider that they cannot expand their business, even in under-served communities, because it would compete with a local hospital.
One of the most glaring examples of how this arbitrary government regulation, which lends itself to a system of cronyism, disrupts the healthcare market is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines. If you’ve ever gotten an MRI, and experienced the sticker shock when reviewing the price of the scan, you’ve been introduced to the deleterious effects of CON laws.
Medical providers, however able and qualified, are not allowed to just buy an MRI machine. They have to ask permission from a state bureaucracy that includes hospital stakeholders who’d rather patients have to come to the hospital to get one. The regulation creates an artificial scarcity of MRI machines which drastically drives up the price of a single scan. You’ve likely seen mobile MRI units, big trucks, that travel around to different areas lacking MRI capability. The mobile units are owned by hospitals.
The negative effects of artificially limiting MRIs, as well as all the other medical equipment, bed space, surgery centers, etc., that the law limits have extensive ripple effects. The entire CON regime is a case in point regarding how government intrusion in free markets serves to inflate prices and strangle access to the most important market any (and all) of us will ever participate in.
If you’re interested in lower healthcare prices and easier access to the care you or loved ones need — moreover if you care about free markets, economic liberty, and limited government in general — you’d do well to encourage state House and Senate members to repeal these Big Government laws.