A Healthier and More Affordable VT, Without CON Laws

By David Flemming

After the federal government began urging states to repeal their CON programs in 1986, 12 states have done so. New Hampshire repealed theirs as recently as 2016. Now thanks to a new study, we now know much money Vermont has been hemorrhaging with CON for the past couple of decades. Even more importantly, we now know how much healthier we would be without CON laws.

A Certificate of Need (CON) is a government-granted authorization that new or existing healthcare providers and facilities must apply for and receive before opening up shop or expanding services.

According to a 2016 study from the Mercatus Center, if Vermont had not adopted CON laws in 1986, the rate of deaths in Vermont hospitals resulting from post-surgery complications would be 5% lower due to several factors. Vermont hospitals would have 36% more MRI machines and 37% more CT machines. Without CON laws, 5% more Vermonters would be able to stay within their home counties to receive medical scans. Better equipment would have reduced the number of patients readmitted to the hospital for surgery complications by 0.3%.

Without CON, each Vermonter would have consumed $228 less healthcare annually, resulting in over $141 million in annual savings for our state. Additionally, 5% more patients would have rated their Vermont hospital experience higher when surveyed.

Repealing CON laws can relieve doctors and administrators from unnecessary regulatory paperwork, allowing them to focus on improving patient outcomes, while charging patients less. In essence, a full repeal of Vermont’s CON laws will make Vermonters healthier and with more money in their pockets.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

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