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Key Vote Alert: Support SB 613

Feb 27, 2023 by AFP

On behalf of Americans for Prosperity West Virginia and our activists across the state, I urge you to support Senate Bill 613, which would exempt hospitals from West Virginia’s detrimental certificate of need requirements. This vote may be recorded in our 2023 session legislative scorecard.

Certificate of need (CON) laws were meant to keep health care costs under control by artificially limiting the supply of services. However, as decades of data demonstrates, the CON experiment has not only completely failed, but it has directly resulted in more expensive, less available, and lower quality health care.

CON is a permission slip from a government board that our hometown health care providers must receive if they wish to open new health care services or expand an existing service. This means that unelected bureaucrats, some of whom have a vested interest in limiting competition in the market, can arbitrarily deny trusted health care providers from meeting needs they see in their communities. In addition, CON allows existing medical competitors to object to new services, weeding out market competition through a kind of “good old boy” system of central planning. This is failed central planning at its worst and, in a state were 53 out of 55 counties have health care shortages, blocking or slowing down additional care is unacceptable.

In West Virginia, CON has blocked 27 new hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers, 2,424 additional hospital beds, up to 7 MRIs, and 16 additional CT scan machines. Research indicates that, “there are 30 percent fewer total hospitals per capita in states with a CON program when compared to those that do not have a CON program,” and that, “CON programs do not protect access in rural health care markets.”

In addition to limited access to care, with less competition, there is less incentive for existing health care providers to provide innovative, affordable, quality health care. National statistics show individuals suffering from pneumonia, heart attacks, and heart failures are more likely to die in states with CON barriers. States with CON laws have five percent higher per-capita health care costs. In instances where CON laws only allow for one hospital provides services to an area, patients are forced to pay fifteen percent higher prices for care.

During the pandemic, 24 out of 35 states with CON laws rightly suspended them via executive orders in order to help medical providers have the flexibility they needed to respond to the public health crisis, saving lives. Sadly, states that enforced CON laws during that time, including West Virginia, experienced 100 additional deaths for every 100,000 residents. Even now, our hospitals are facing crowding but are unable to act quickly to adapt due to CON barriers holding them back.

No wonder the Federal Trade Commission, under both democrat and republican administrations, have strongly urged states to repeal their CON laws. The American Medical Association has also advocated to repeal CON, which they portray as, “anticompetitive and a barrier to entry…susceptible to abuse by creating opportunities for anticompetitive behavior.”

SB 613 represents a great first step towards a more, eventually, holistic end to this outdated and detrimental practice. The bill repeals Certificate of Need for all hospital services (as defined): inpatient services, out-patient services, emergency room services, surgical services, diagnostic and imaging services, and laboratory services provided on the hospital’s campus. This bill would substantially help to undo the negative impacts of West Virginia’s CON laws, provide flexibility our trusted medical providers deserve, and allow more high-quality health care access at a more affordable cost for every Mountaineer.

It is for these reasons, I urge you to support Senate Bill 613, Exempting hospitals from certificate of need requirements.