A North Carolina doctor filed a lawsuit Monday in North Carolina Superior Court to overturn the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws. Dr. Gajendra Singh, a surgeon based in Winston-Salem, wanted to buy an MRI machine to offer MRI’s to patients at a lower cost than the $1,200 he was charged by a local provider last year.
The India-born surgeon decided he would open his own imaging center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and charge a lot less. Singh launched his business in August and decided to post his prices, as low as $500 for an MRI, on a banner outside the office building and on his website.
There was just one barrier to fully realizing his vision: a North Carolina law that he and his lawyers argue essentially gives hospitals a monopoly over MRI scans and other services.
Singh ran into the state’s “certificate of need” law, which prohibited him from buying a permanent MRI machine, which meant his office couldn’t always offer patients one of the most important imaging services in medicine. …
Under North Carolina’s law, a medical provider must obtain a government permit (a “certificate of need”) if they want to offer certain new services or buy new equipment. But first, every year, state officials will make a determination about whether certain services are needed in different places.
If the state has decided an area doesn’t need a service, then other providers are barred from even applying for a permit. That is what Singh ran into: He wasn’t allowed to apply to purchase a permanent MRI for his Winston-Salem center. State officials had already decided it wasn’t needed there.
Government bureaucrats felt they knew better than Singh what medical devices were needed in his local community. Now patients are denied a more affordable choice for a vital medical service. Civitas has previously explored North Carolina’s CON laws and how they restrict patient choices, drive up medical care costs and serve largely to protect the entrenched interests.
Decades ago, 49 states adopted CON laws, largely in response to federal funds being contingent on state’s passage of them. Now, 14 states have eliminated their CON laws, and Dr. Singh and his attorneys at the Institute for Justice hope to make North Carolina the 15th. Here’s hoping they succeed.