Patients in several states could soon find it easier to access life-saving medical care, if state legislators and executive officials eliminate so-called certificate-of-need restrictions for new acute-care hospitals in rural areas.
Certificate-of-need laws require health care providers to get a state government’s sign-off before building new facilities, expanding existing ones, or even purchasing new equipment. These laws are currently on the books in nearly three dozen states.
It makes little sense to artificially restrict the supply of medical care when our nation is in the midst of a decades-long health cost crisis. We need more competition among providers if we’re to drive down costs and improve quality. Scrapping certificate-of-need laws can deliver that additional supply — and thereby expand access to care.
Certificates of need were conceived about a half-century ago as a way to control the rise in health care spending. The idea was that by requiring health care providers to demonstrate that a proposed medical facility or expansion meets an existing public need, lawmakers could prevent providers from spending recklessly on unnecessary projects and equipment.