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Another Way to Reduce Access to Health Care

January 30, 2014
Outlaw emergency rooms that aren't owned by politically well-connected hospitals. Politicians in Colorado have introduced a bill 
which would force the closure of already existing freestanding emergency rooms unless they are owned by a hospital. SB 016 provides an exemption for emergency rooms more than 25 miles from a licensed hospital.... the practical effect of the bill would be to give hospitals monopoly control of all emergency facilities. Freestanding emergency rooms — some owned by hospitals and some not — already serve patients in metro Denver. They locate in areas that are underserved by the emergency rooms attached to hospitals. Different from urgent care centers, they charge more because they can do more. They typically have board-certified physicians on duty 24 hours a day, every day, and are equipped to diagnose and stabilize cardiac arrest, stroke symptoms and trauma. Like other special interest groups, Colorado’s existing hospitals have developed a loyal group of state legislators who are willing to vote for them without regard for the harm that protecting hospital cashflows inflicts on ordinary citizens in need of health care.
Mark Thornton wrote last fall about some other ways that the state restricsts access to health care:
The mainstream perspective is that experts and technocrats should establish what the best medical practices are and then bureaucrats should enforce those practices on everyone. Practices deemed suboptimal, unproven, or potentially dangerous should be prohibited by politicians and the prohibition enforced by bureaucrats. This is a one-size-fits-all system with the state determining what fits and what does not. Never shy about intervention, the government has provided monopoly privileges for doctors through licensing, for drug companies through patents and trade restrictions, and for hospitals, who can prevent competitors from entering their market through “certificate of need” requirements. The combination of monopoly suppliers and subsidized consumers is the primary reason for this era of rising medical costs and falling health care outcomes.

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