You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that believes America’s healthcare system is thriving, no matter what their political persuasion. And increasingly, people are beginning to realize that the real reason for that is often government regulations that restrict supply and drastically increase prices.
Worst of all are Certificate of Need (CON) laws, which 36 states still have on the books. But several states are gearing up for pushes to change that this legislative session, with Georgia being the first out of the gates.
CON laws came about in the 1970s as a form of protectionism for existing providers. Though they differ slightly state-to-state in the types of facilities they restrict, they always mean providers have to go argue before the government and show cause for “why” they need permission to expand services in the state—while their competitors get to come in and argue against them. This is one reason most states have only one or two companies that dominate the healthcare industry and own most hospitals.
In Georgia, CON laws currently restrict the number of birthing facilities that can be opened. These types of centers have grown increasingly popular among pregnant women in the US—likely due to the abysmal maternal mortality rates in our country’s hospitals. According to the Wilson Center, “Despite spending two and half times more per person on health than the OECD average, the maternal mortality rate in the US increased from 12 to 14 deaths per 100,000 live births from 1990 to 2015, putting the United States at 46th in the world.”
The Peachtree State is particularly bad in this regard. According to the Pacific Legal Foundation, the state had a mortality rate below that of Iraq in 2015 and the infant mortality rate was the 15th-highest in the country as of 2020.
Yikes: You can see why women are desperate for better options. Due to lobbying from hospital associations, though, women are left without choices in the market, or are forced to commute crazy distances to give birth in an environment they’re comfortable in.
In 2021, CON laws blocked the Augusta Birth Center from opening, in 2020 they prevented the Cartersville Medical Center from offering a new service that would have included four neonatal intermediate care beds, and in 2019 they blocked Savannah Health Services Memorial Health University Medical Center from adding eight neonatal intermediate care beds. The list goes on, these are just a few recent examples.
This is nothing short of corruption, and it puts real lives on the line—vulnerable lives at that.
Anyone who claims to be “pro-life” cannot support this kind of scheme that puts the priorities of businessmen over those of newborn babies and their mothers. Furthermore, anyone who claims to want to reduce healthcare prices is disingenuous if they don’t start with getting rid of the root causes of the price spikes in the first place. Making taxpayers pay for healthcare does nothing to actually reduce the cost, whereas getting rid of arbitrary restrictions on the supply would expediently bring down prices.
CON laws need to be done away with carte blanche, and this should be an easy thing for Democrats and Republicans to agree on.
Disclaimer: Hannah is a fellow with Americans for Prosperity, which lobbies against CON laws.