Certificate-of-Need Laws Prevent Access to Lifesaving Medical Technology


Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. In large part, that's because less than half of the population that should be getting screened isn't getting screened.

It doesn't have to be this way. Medical science has found a way to use CT scanners to do screenings non-invasively, negating the need to insert a colonoscope into the rectum and large intestine. But for regulatory hurdles, people could just go to a clinic, pay for a quick photo & analysis session and be on their way.

However, as of 2010, 13 states require medical institutions to get permission, in the form of a "certificate of need," before purchasing new CT scanners. Other states require doctors to obtain a certificate of need before offering new medical procedures like virtual colonoscopies, which are still relatively cutting edge.

From Darpana Sheth of the Institute for Justice, writing in the Daily Caller:

In a lengthy and expensive process, verging on full-blown litigation, medical providers must demonstrate a "need" for the proposed services. Worse, existing healthcare facilities are invited to oppose and defeat a would-be competitor's application. This process results in a de-facto "certificate of monopoly" for favored established businesses.

Consider entrepreneur and physician Dr. Mark Baumel. He wanted to open several "one-stop shops" for colon health in Virginia that would provide virtual colonoscopies along with same-day polyp removal, just as he does at his flagship facility in Delaware. Unlike Delaware, Virginia prohibits purchasing a CT scanner without first obtaining a certificate of need. And yet, Virginia's Department of Health has denied Dr. Baumel a certificate of need.

None of Dr. Baumel's potential competitors even offer the service that he wants to provide. But they could. And state health planners apparently think protecting existing businesses from even the possibility of competition is more important than patient access to potentially lifesaving screenings.

Baumel is suing Virginia, with the help of the Institute for Justice. See more Reason coverage of certificate-of-need laws here and here.

Disclosure: I am a former employee of the Institute for Justice.