The 2023 legislative session in Georgia was a missed opportunity for lawmakers to improve the quality of life for citizens in their state. Despite the potential for bipartisan support on issues such as school choice programs and reducing licensing barriers to employment, the most important issue that should have been addressed was the repeal of the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws.
CON laws are a government-granted monopoly for giant hospital associations and other healthcare corporations. These laws make it impossible to add more medical services, beds, or facilities, which keeps healthcare prices artificially high and blocks competition. This means that if someone wants to open a new hospital, they must ask the government for permission while their competitors lobby against them.
Democrats often claim to be monopoly-busters and express concern over companies like Amazon, yet they rarely work to get rid of CON laws. However, some Republicans did try to advance this cause in 2023. Sen. Greg Dolezel introduced a bill to fully repeal these laws and was joined by numerous other representatives. Another smaller CON bill would have removed these provisions for the development of hospitals in rural areas of the state, but both failed to move through the legislature.
The failure of lawmakers to champion better healthcare for their residents this year has been linked to a significant lobbying campaign by the hospital associations, specifically Wellstar Health System in the state. According to Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, “Their pretentious belief that they know what’s best for rural Georgia is astounding.”
A new report from the Georgia Public Policy Center reveals just how bleak this is for poorer residents in the state. CON regulations are associated with less access to healthcare services for all residents, but especially those in rural areas and those who are poorer. There are 30% fewer rural hospitals in states with CON regulations relative to non-CON states, and there are 13% fewer rural ambulatory surgery centers in CON states relative to non-CON states according to the report.
The consequences of this failure are dire; Georgians will have fewer hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and home health agencies than they would (and should based on population) in a free market. Furthermore, ill-informed members of society will blame capitalism instead of the true culprit in the healthcare system: the government rigging it for a few connected insiders. This will only lead to further demand for the government to take over healthcare, which could be avoided if Republicans stand up for an actual free market.
It is clear that Georgia Republicans need to get their act together and take action to repeal CON laws and create a free market healthcare system. The consequences of inaction are too great; Georgians deserve better than a healthcare system that is rigged against them.