Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Certificate-of-Need Laws [CON] and How Restricting Supply Leads to Higher Health-care Prices

“More than four decades ago, Congress passed and President Ford signed the National Health Planning and Resources Development Act of 1974. The act withheld federal funds from states that failed to adopt certificate-of-need (CON) laws regulating healthcare facilities. CON laws require healthcare providers wishing to open or expand a healthcare facility to first prove to a regulatory body that the community needs the planned services.”

“In 1986—as evidence mounted that CON laws were failing to achieve their stated goals—Congress repealed the federal act, eliminating federal incentives for states to maintain their CON programs. Since then, 15 states have done away with their CON regulations. A majority of states still maintain CON programs, however, and vestiges of the National Health Planning and Resources Development Act can be seen in the justifications that state legislatures offer in support of these regulations. Policymakers claim CON regulation is intended to:

ensure an adequate supply of healthcare resources,

ensure access to health care for rural communities,

promote high-quality health care,

ensure charity care for those unable to pay or for otherwise underserved communities,

encourage appropriate levels of hospital substitutes and healthcare alternatives, and
restrain the cost of healthcare services.

Research, however, shows that CON laws fail to achieve these laudable goals. In fact, by limiting supply and undermining competition, CON laws may undercut each of these aims.”

“CON programs limit the introduction and expansion of a wide variety of medical services and equipment, such as rehabilitation centers, nursing home beds, and medical imaging technologies. The process for obtaining a CON can take years and tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. By definition, CON programs restrict supply, making them unlikely to ensure an adequate supply of healthcare resources. Research on the supply of dialysis clinics and hospice care facilities finds that CON programs do, indeed, restrict the supply of both.”

“Unlike other regulatory regimes, such as occupational licensure and scope-of-practice rules, CON regulations do not specifically aim to improve quality. That is, CON regulators typically do not attempt to assess whether providers are qualified to do their jobs, focusing instead on whether there is an economic “need” for their services. Nevertheless, CON advocates sometimes claim that because CON regulations reduce the number of institutions providing care, they will cause more procedures to be performed by the institutions that do obtain permission. Thus, the argument goes, practitioners in CON states will tend to see more patients with the same conditions and therefore might become more specialized and proficient. This theory must be weighed against competing theories that suggest that competition tends to increase quality, especially when regulations prevent price competition.”

“As economists Jon Ford and David Kaserman put it, “To the extent that CON regulation is effective in reducing net investment in the industry, the economic effect is to shift the supply curve of the affected service back to the left. . . . The effect of such supply shifts is to raise . . . [the] equilibrium price.” The empirical evidence on how CON regulation affects cost has been consistent with economic theory, showing that CON regulation tends to increase the cost of healthcare services.” Certificate-of-Need Laws, Mercatus Center, 04/17/2017

Link to the entire essay appears below:

No comments:

Post a Comment