We are facing a serious problem: a shortage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.
And yet, we have a piece of state-based protectionist law called “certificate of need” or “CON Law” that is “artificially” suppressing the amount of medical equipment, beds and technology that can save lives.
Con Law is a piece of red-tape that requires hospitals and health care providers to seek “permission” from a state agency before opening a new practice, adding hospital beds or even buying new equipment.
Sadly, the onus is on the applicant to prove why they need the permission, yes, even during COVID-19. And yes, even during COVID-19, cert-holders also known as “more powerful” medical groups can challenge the applicant.
What started in 1964 as a means to stop hospitals from overstocking resources and therefore hiking up medical costs to Americans has become a loophole used by larger, more powerful medical players to run a monopoly on operation privileges.
Research group Mercatus also found CON law explicitly limits not just beds but dialysis clinics, hospice care facilities and decreased access to medical imaging technologies.
It currently exists in 36 states plus the District of Columbia, Pacific Legal Foundation, an organisation that defends Americans from government abuse says.
Among others, 28 of those regulate the mere addition of hospital beds while four require a Certificate just to operate an ambulance.
Thankfully though, right now, 24 states have either suspended completely or some portion of their CON Laws or enabled emergency provisions, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, and New York, Pacific Legal says. Here is the current list by Pacific Legal.
But others like Kentucky have made the problem worse by refusing to accept any applications during the pandemic that is, there’s no chance of some hospitals adding new beds in that state.
Fortunately, there is some hope for the future, and after COVID-19. The US government issued a report in 2018 asking states to repeal or scale back their laws.