Does removing certificate-of-need regulations lead to a surge in health care spending?
This study assesses the impact of certificate-of-need (CON) regulation for hospitals on various measures of health spending per capita, hospital supply, diffusion of technology, and hospital industry organization. Using a time series cross-sectional methodology, we estimate the net impact of CON policies on costs, supply, technology diffusion, and industry organization, controlling for area characteristics, the presence of other forms of regulation, such as hospital rate-setting, and competition. Mature CON programs are associated with a modest (5 percent) long-term reduction in acute care spending per capita, but not with a significant reduction in total per capita spending. There is no evidence of a surge in acquisition of facilities or in costs following removal of CON regulations. Mature CON programs also result in a slight (2 percent) reduction in bed supply but higher costs per day and per admission, along with higher hospital profits. CON regulations generally have no detectable effect on diffusion of various hospital-based technologies. It is doubtful that CON regulations have had much effect on quality of care, positive or negative. Such regulations may have improved access, but there is little empirical evidence to document this.
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