Jan 14, 2016

Study Confirms State Certificate of Need Laws Limit Access

Post by Freedom Partners

The evidence continues to mount that state “certificate of need” laws are restricting access to crucial health care services.

Certificate of need laws—or CON for short—require health care providers to obtain permission from state bureaucrats before opening a new practice, expanding an existing facility, or even adding medical equipment or new hospital beds.

While supporters argue that CON laws were designed to keep health care costs down, the evidence indicates that CON serves primarily to entrench existing providers and harm patients by limiting access to care, and is correlated with higher costs.

In The Wall Street Journal, Thomas Stratmann and Matthew Baker highlight new research on CON released this week by the Mercatus Center:

More than 20 states restrict the technology needed for three highly demanded imaging services: MRI scans, CT scans and PET scans, which doctors rely on to diagnose and track tumors, injuries and more. Our new study for George Mason University’s Mercatus Center shows how certificate-of-need laws make these critical scans harder for patients to get.

We found that patients in states with such restrictions have between 20% and 30% fewer options for providers of these scans than residents of other states. This leads to fewer scans, a drop of between 30% and 65%, depending on the type. Many patients choose to travel to receive care. Our study found that between 3% and 8% of patients seeking one of the three scans are forced to leave the state thanks to certificate-of-need laws.

Thirty six states still have some form of CON laws on the books. Lawmakers seeking to expand access to affordable care in their states would be wise to give these laws a second look.