Platitudes will get you anywhere you want to go in politics, but nowhere with me.
For years, the Right has pushed back on the Left’s incessant demands for gun control and pointed to true underlying causes of violence, like mental health issues, as the proper place to focus political action instead.
Are they right about this? Mostly. As we discussed on the BASEDPolitics podcast a few weeks ago, violence is a nuanced issue and a person is not necessarily more likely to be violent just because they’re mentally ill. Still, given the fact that one in four people in our jails reportedly experience “serious psychological distress” there is certainly reason to think that addressing shortages in mental health services could be a significant factor in the fight to prevent violence.
But if that’s the case, one would expect to see Republicans outright hustling to get rid of Certificate of Need (CON) laws in red state legislatures across the country. After all, these laws limit the number of psychiatric beds available in a state (which we have a severe national shortage of). Many times they also limit behavioral health facilities as a whole, or restrict the facilities physicians can provide services at.
Strangely enough, that has thus far not been the case though. Georgia failed to get either of their CON reform bills to the floor this year and the majority of the Bible Belt still has some of these laws in place.
And that’s not because they’re popular. Though the average American is far less aware of the presence of these laws in their states, they tend to readily support eradicating them when they become aware. That’s sort of stating the obvious, no common sense person would support laws that directly prevent the development of new healthcare services and keep prices artificially high for consumers. That’s exactly what CON laws do—block competition, provide monopoly power for a few major healthcare corporations, and ensure all of us have fewer healthcare options and pay a lot more for the ones we do have.
So why aren’t we seeing more action on this front, especially from Republicans who claim to want more mental healthcare services instead of gun control laws? Put simply, because many of them are cowards. The few healthcare corporations that benefit from the corruption of CON laws have a lot of money (that tends to happen when you’re granted a government monopoly) and they spend a good deal of those funds lobbying to keep their racket going.
Fortunately, it seems Republicans in at least one state are poised to stand up to the machine. In South Carolina, a bill to fully repeal CON laws from the state’s books has been rapidly advancing and has the full support of the governor as well. The legislation almost passed last year, and had the votes to do so, but was killed in a last minute procedural move that outraged many.
This year it’s back and should it pass, all residents in the state will enjoy an expansion of healthcare services as well as lower costs in the market. And Republicans would be living up to their promise to expand mental health treatment—in a free market capitalist friendly way—as a meaningful way to prevent violence.
That’s the kind of leadership our country has been sorely lacking in. We need leaders of action, so as they say in the South, let’s get ‘er done, South Carolina.
Hannah is a consultant for Americans for Prosperity which works on these issues.
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