Certificate-of-Need Regulations Protect Incumbents and Hurt Consumers

(p. A11) An important but overlooked debate is unfolding in several states: When governments restrict market forces in health care, who benefits? Legislative majorities in 36 states believe that consumers benefit, because restrictions help control health-care costs. But new research confirms what should be common sense: Preventing qualified health-care providers from freely plying their trade results in less access to care.
Most states enforce market restrictions through certificate-of-need programs, which mandate a lengthy, expensive application process before a health-care provider can open or expand a facility. The story goes: If hospitals or physicians could choose what services to provide, competition for patients would force providers to overinvest in equipment such as MRI machines–and the cost could be passed on to patients through higher medical bills.
. . .
These restrictions have largely failed to reduce costs, but they certainly reduce services. A 2011 study in the Journal of Health Care Finance found that certificate-of-need laws resulted in 48% fewer hospitals and 12% fewer hospital beds.

For the full commentary, see:
THOMAS STRATMANN and MATTHEW BAKER. “Certifiably Needless Health-Care Meddling.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Jan. 12, 2016): A11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 11, 2016.)

The “new research” mentioned by Stratman in the passage quoted above, is:
Stratmann, Thomas, and Matthew C. Baker. “Are Certificate-of-Need Laws Barriers to Entry?: How They Affect Access to MRI, CT, and Pet Scans.” Mercatus Working Paper, Jan. 2016.

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