Tennessee’s Certificate of Need laws endanger lives, new report says

Tennessee’s Certificate of Need laws endanger lives, new report says

Tennessee is one of 36 states in which the government micromanages the supply of health-care services, a process that endangers lives.

As reported, these Certificate of Need laws restrict the number of services hospitals may offer, including beds and MRI scanners, among several other things, under the pretense of lowering medical costs.

George Mason University professor Thomas Stratmann and Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Matthew Mitchell have published new reports strongly suggesting Tennessee and the other 35 states immediately end CON laws.

Thomas Stratmann (photo courtesy of George Mason University)

Thomas Stratmann (photo courtesy of George Mason University)

Both authors were unavailable for comment Thursday.

Stratmann, in his research, said hospitals in states with CON laws ranks worse in eight of nine measurements of hospital quality, including pneumonia mortality rates and heart failure mortality rates.

He reported the average 30-day mortality rate for patients with pneumonia, heart failure and heart attacks who were discharged from hospitals in CON states was 2.5 percent to 5 percent higher.

Mitchell, meanwhile, reported CON laws results in higher medical costs and reduced medical innovation.

“The most likely explanation for the continued use of CON laws is simple. Special interests fight to keep them in place,” Mitchell said.

As reported, only the Tennessee General Assembly can do away with the state’s CON laws, but no such effort has gained traction among legislators.

Tennessee’s Health Services and Development Agency regulates the state’s CON laws. HSDA spokesman Jim Christoffersen told Tennessee Watchdog last year that CON laws are needed because free-market economics don’t apply to the health-care system.

Christoffersen said the feds set prices, and state and federal governments or third-party insurance carriers pay.

Mitchell, however, said in his paper that “a supply restriction such as CON will increase rather than decrease total spending.”

Tennessee’s CON laws go back to 1973.

In a podcast with Tennessee Watchdog, Justin Owen, president of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, said the state has the nation’s seventh most-restrictive CON laws.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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