Monopolies vs. Health Care Innovation: What Happens When Incumbents Decide Who Gets to Compete?By
Monopolies can innovate, just like elephants can play tennis. The results usually just aren’t very elegant or successful. Competition, on the other hand, is famous for driving innovation. Even in state-owned monopolies, like NASA’s initial monopoly on space exploration in the US, it was competition between nations during the rush to outer space and then competition between suppliers of technology that inspired the hundreds of inventions and innovations that NASA can proudly boast. But without the incentive to do better and stay ahead of competitors, innovation is slow and clumsy. An elephant might occasionally connect with a tennis ball and score some points, but real success is unlikely.
That all seems pretty obvious to most people, but not to those who benefit from monopolies. Real monopolies do not arise from the success of a competing company like Apple or Google as they rise above competitors and increase market share. In a free market, the competitors are still there and can enter the battle as they wish. Real monopolies arise from the power of the State that prohibits or restricts competition to favor a protected entity. Real monopolies can result in huge profits for the players and great power for the politicians and bureaucrats controlling the field, but they tend to crush meaningful innovation, especially from small start-ups with bold new ideas. If you can keep the start-ups from every showing up in the marketplace, you have enshrined innovation fatigue. Sadly, that’s what is happening in the United States now in the health care sector.
As William Jasper reports, “Certificate Of Need” laws in over 30 states restrict market entry in medicine and healthcare as they protect overpriced hospitals and medical providers. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development exercises authority over Certificates Of Need. According to Jasper:
Before a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or other healthcare facility can be built, a Certificate Of Need, a CON, must be obtained. Not only that, but in many jurisdictions, a facility must obtain a CON even to install new equipment, such as a CT scanner, MRI machine, a lithotripsy machine, or other important medical technology.
This system prevents new competitors from entering the market and rewards the current dominant players. It is a corrupt cartel system that prevents innovation and competition, denies consumers choices in healthcare, and guarantees ever-rising prices. It’s no surprise, then, that the big companies in the healthcare industrial complex and their Big Government allies support this system. Certificate Of Need laws are indeed a con game — and we are the victims.
If your state has this system, urge your leaders to repeal them and break the grip of incumbents over innovation in health care. The effect of a free market in innovation in healthcare is well illustrated in the fields of cosmetic surgery and Lasik eye surgery, areas not highly regulated, not covered by insurance and Medicare, and areas where advertizing of price and abundant, aggressive competition is allowed. In these fields, real prices have been declining while patient satisfaction (especially in the Lasik areas) is extremely high. When innovation and competition can prosper, good products and services can flourish and prices can actually come down.
Give innovation a chance. “Certificates of Need” do just the opposite. A better name would be “Certificates of Greed.”