By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
January 9, 2024

Report identifies key reforms needed to boost health outcomes in Magnolia state

Removing outdated restrictions on health care would boost health care in Mississippi, according to a new report published today.  Mississippi has some of the worst health outcomes in the country, and the full repeal of these anticompetitive laws in the health sector would cut costs and improve access to treatment.

For several decades, an official permit has been required for health care providers wanting to offer new services or expand existing services in 19 key areas of health care.  These permits, known as Certificates of Need (CON), are also required for a provider wanting to spend more than $1.5 million on new medical equipment, relocate services from one part of the state to another, or change ownership.

Unlike other health care licensing laws already in place, the CON process is not designed primarily to assess a provider’s qualifications, safety record, or fitness.  Instead, CON laws require regulators to centrally plan the health care sector by assessing whether each new applicant’s services are “needed” by the community. That question, however, can only be truly answered through the voluntary choices of practitioners and patients.

“If you want to know why Mississippi does not have medical care where it is most needed, CON laws bear much of the blame.  They intentionally take away options for health care,” explained Douglas Carswell, President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

“What started out a generation ago as a misguided attempt to restrict increases in health costs has become a legally-sanctioned protectionist scheme.  These outdated laws are indefensible and must go.”

CON laws in Mississippi limit the provision of long term care, despite demographic change that has seen the number of elderly people needing care increase dramatically.  Ambulatory services, key diagnostic services, psychiatric services and many other services are all limited by CON laws.

The report, authored by Matthew Mitchell, one of America’s leading experts on health care regulation, references overwhelming evidence which shows that CON laws mean higher spending, less access, and diminished quality of care.

Mitchell’s report identifies a road map for reform, highlighting how full abolition could be achieved.  “The evidence from other states without CON laws not only shows how a Mississippi without CON would enjoy greater access to lower cost and higher quality care, but it also gives us a roadmap for how to do it. In the report, I talk about 11 different strategies for reform,” said Mitchell.

“The Governor and the new Speaker have both committed to improving health outcomes in Mississippi by repealing restrictive practices.  We are excited to see legislation aimed at CON repeal, as well as action by the Board of Health to remove the red tape,” added Carswell.


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