RALEIGH – Have you, or someone you know, ever had to get an MRI, only to experience the sticker shock associated with such a ‘routine’ scan? There’s a reason for that, and it’s not due to cutting edge technology and massive costs of operation. The reason price tags on MRIs can take one’s breath away is, quite simply, because your state government literally won’t allow providers to purchase more machines and offer lower prices.
A doctor in Forsyth County is challenging those unconstitutional laws, and a judges decision to let the lawsuit go forward could represent the biggest step toward freeing North Carolina’s healthcare market in years. Dr. Gajendra Singh’s case challenging the state’s controversial was allowed to proceed after the trial court denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case.
From the North State Journal:
“[…] “The injury itself is the entire CON application process,” Josh Windham, an Institute for Justice attorney who represents Dr. Singh, told NSJ. “Requiring someone to apply for a CON in the first place is the injury. It would make no sense to make him suffer that injury before he could challenge it.”
The hospitals, organized through the North Carolina Healthcare Association, are the main opposition to ending the CON laws. Cody Hand,
[Senior vice president of advocacy and policy at NCHA] Cody Hand and NCHA argue that because of money lost in indigent care, hospitals need areas to make up the difference, and CON laws help them do that.
“Hospitals are required under federal law to do a lot of services that nobody else is required to do,” Hand said. “As long as we live in an environment where we have to treat anybody who walks in our door, and can’t even refer them for better care, we need the CON law to make sure we have the resources available and the providers available to treat those patients.”
“I understand the position the hospitals are in,” Windham said. “The entire market is incredibly regulated. But the solution to overregulation when it burdens one part of the market isn’t to shackle everybody else. It’s to make the lives of hospitals easier on the regulatory side, so that they’re not having to lobby legislatures to tamp down on additional competition.” […]”
Many may think such a system’s continued existence doesn’t make sense considering all the talking points we here these days on healthcare from both sides – ‘more affordable, more accessible.’ Yet, despite all of the rhetoric, the majority of Republican and Democrat lawmakers have for years stood guard protecting an antiquated monopoly system of Certificate of Need laws that enable bureaucrats to raise prices for you and me by eliminating competition with the power of the State.
Those MRIs, for instance. Dr. Singh wants to wants to expand his medical imaging center to offer high quality imaging services like MRIs to the Forsyth County market for lower prices. How about an MRI for half the price? Such an offering to the healthcare market would seem to hit two birds with one stone, reducing costs and increasing accessibility. That’s everyone’s goal right?
Wrong. The bureaucrats on the CON board, many of which represent hospital interests, determined there was ‘no need’ for another MRI machine in his area.
We know, from the Hospital Lobby spokesman himself, that the real ‘need’ is to force you into paying inflated healthcare prices at the local hospital in order make up for losses elsewhere. They don’t see Dr. Singh’s half-priced MRIs as anything but a hit to their own bottom line, and they get the government to squash it for them. You see, Singh’s less expensive services are given to patients that the hospital would rather have them pay the hospital through the nose for.
Broken down: The Hospital Lobby and state government won’t let you get less expensive healthcare from qualified providers somewhere else. Now remember all those politicians promising to work for more affordable, more accessible healthcare? They’ve repeatedly voted to uphold this scheme, year after year after year.
It’s not as if they have been given the opportunity for reform, either. Bills to reform or repeal CON laws have been introduced every year over the last half dozen at least, yet the Hospital Lobby looms too large. That’s why litigation could be the only avenue for removing the shackles on the North Carolina healthcare market represented by crony CON laws.
If you’d appreciate a DECREASE in the cost of your next medical procedure, you might call your state lawmaker and ask what part of the N.C. Constitution gives them the authority to deny North Carolinians a free market in healthcare?
Read more about the lawsuit and efforts to repeal CON laws here.