Virginia General Assembly Considering Supply-Side Healthcare Reform

While most political debates about healthcare policy tend to focus on adding new regulations and shifting costs around, economists and libertarians often point to ways government can deregulate the sector to increase the supply of healthcare, enable more competition, and potentially lower the costs.

For instance, here in Virginia, economists at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University issued a policy study last year analyzing Virginia’s “Certificate of Need” law that requires healthcare entrepreneurs to get permission from the state before establishing new care facilities or adding capacity at existing facilities. Such a policy artificially limits the number of hospital beds, MRI machines, and other vital devices and services. Mercatus scholars have also recommended Virginia allow nurse practitioners to establish autonomous practices and independently write prescriptions, and to allow telemedicine programs in which patients can be treated remotely using the latest medical technologies. Robert Sarvis made similar proposals a cornerstone of his campaign as the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in 2013.

That’s why it’s encouraging to see the General Assembly consider a number of these regulatory reforms, albeit often in limited form:

  • Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) has introduced a number of bills (HB59, HB347, HB348, HB349, HB350) addressing Certificate of Need.
  • A bipartisan, bicameral bill (HB581/SB264) would allow some nurse practitioners to practice independent of a “patient care team.”
  • SB19 would establish a telemedicine pilot program.
  • HB313 would enable nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and licensed practical nurses to administer vaccinations to children.
  • We hope these bills help lay the groundwork for further discussion about regulatory reforms to remove barriers to competition in healthcare, increase the supply of healthcare services, and lower costs for patients and families.

UPDATE 1/14: Additional legislation dealing with “Certificate of Need” reform introduced this session includes HB193, HB463, HB621, HB651, HB688, HB689, SB333, and SB398. For more on the case against “Certificate of Need” (and why legislators should avoid narrow carveouts and exemptions), we recommend this excellent column by Robert Sarvis in the Richmond Times-Dispatch last year.