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Harmful Certificate of Need Laws Keep Mental Health Patients from Getting Care

September 25, 2018

September 25, 2018

Phoenix—Mental health patients and those suffering from opioid addictions are not getting the care they need because of so-called certificate of need (CON) laws, which hospitals and other healthcare providers use to eliminate their competition, as revealed in a new report from the Goldwater Institute.

In CON Job: Certificate of Need Laws Used to Delay, Deny Expansion of Mental Health Options, Goldwater Institute National Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten reports on how CON laws are negatively affecting Americans who require mental healthcare. The anti-competitive CON laws—which are on the books in 38 states—allow existing hospitals and healthcare companies to prevent new providers from entering the marketplace. The idea behind these laws was that they would control costs. But because they stifle competition, they actually limit the availability of needed services and drive up costs, all to the benefit of existing providers and the detriment to those in need.

Flatten reports on stories from Iowa, Oregon, and Tennessee, illustrating the damage that CON laws can do to mental health patients in areas where there is a demonstrated need for care that is going unfulfilled. “The lack of competition caused by certificate of need laws allows existing providers to charge more for lower quality services,” Flatten said. “The people who end up paying the steepest price are those in need of treatments that, because of CON laws, are nearly impossible to access in their communities.”

And although the need for mental health facilities can be dire in some places, existing providers and bureaucrats in states with CON laws are ignoring that need—with tragic consequences. For example, as the report explains, an intellectually disabled autistic man from Iowa was handcuffed to a hospital bed for days without receiving care—simply because there was no nearby mental health facility to take him.

This Goldwater Institute report shows that CON law reform is needed to ensure that mental health patients have access to higher quality, more cost-effective treatment. “Many academic studies, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, and even the American Medical Association agree that CON laws are a failed public policy,” Flatten said. “These laws restrict would-be healthcare providers from helping to solve public health crises, and reform would allow those who require mental health treatment to have better access to the care they need.”

Read CON Job here.


About the Goldwater Institute

The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.



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