According to the United States Census Bureau, 41 percent of those in the Mississippi population are a minority, consisting mostly of African Americans. This is one of the highest minority percentages in the country.
Ultimately, the state of Mississippi has a crisis of healthcare access that goes across all ethnicities. However, due to the geographic nature of healthcare access problems, healthcare access challenges in certain areas with a higher percentage of African Americans can lead to heightened challenges for the minority population as a whole.
There are several contributing factors to the reduced minority healthcare access in Mississippi. While the regulatory excesses on healthcare in the state have several variations, perhaps the most burdensome is the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws. Under CON laws, new healthcare providers must get permission from the state before beginning operations in a specific region. Additionally, the laws allow existing providers in the region to give input on whether not the new provider is needed.
While CON laws are problematic no matter where they are, these laws' effects on healthcare access are especially strong in rural areas. Fundamentally, rural health care systems are generally more sensitive to bad health care policy than their urban counterparts, and CON laws have an especially strong effect. According to research by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, CON laws reduce the number of healthcare providers, increase the cost of healthcare in rural areas, and ultimately lead to lower health outcomes.
Mississippi has the highest percentage of rural African Americans in the country. Thirty-eight percent of the rural population is black. When placed in the context of CON laws, it is worth noting that the state has among the worst health outcomes for blacks in the country. In many states, the majority of the black population is urban-based and experiences a lesser impact than CON laws' effects on blacks in rural areas. Meanwhile, African Americans in Mississippi bear the heightened effect of CON laws on rural areas.
Additionally, the inherent concept behind CON laws places minorities at a disadvantage. CON laws grant approval for a new healthcare provider to open up only if the state determines that the population at large needs a particular healthcare service. However, the central planners behind CON implementation often fail to account for other factors, such as the positive benefits of increased competition for minorities.
To illustrate this, it is helpful to look at a study conducted by Rutgers University. In the wake of CON repeals in New Jersey, the study found that certain cardiovascular procedures saw an increase in “utilization overall and did so more rapidly for blacks.” This was due to the fact that increased competition from new providers led to more providers working with minority populations that were outside of their traditional patients.
CON regulations on healthcare provider expansion might help protect incumbent providers from new competition, but they do little to help everyday Mississippians. If Mississippi wants to see the void of healthcare providers in the state filled, a key step is to remove this red tape that inhibits its citizens, rural areas, and minority communities. Government control and central planning of the health sector is a recipe for deprivation, it’s time for Mississippi to turn the tide.