The Montana Healthcare Miracle
Montana’s legislature should be commended for taking a stand for healthcare access and passing the most significant Certificate of Need reform in years.
“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” – Friedrich A. Hayek
With no inpatient mental health and addiction care facilities in Bozeman, recent reports have highlighted the work of advocates who say patients are being forced into costly emergency room visits that aren’t well suited for their needs. And law enforcement says they frequently are stuck transporting patients to the existing inpatient facilities around the state – with taxpayers footing the bill.
There certainly appears to be a need for more inpatient mental health and addiction care facilities in Montana. But up until this year, the state used Certificate of Need (CON) authority to place an actual moratorium on new inpatient addiction care facilities.
We’ve detailed extensively how the CON program works. Under CON, the government gets to determine whether a new healthcare business is “needed”. Even worse, during the application process the government then surveys would-be competitors and asks if new competition would cut into their bottom line.
By setting the supply of healthcare through regulatory decree, CON laws have been shown to stifle competition and drive up the costs of accessing healthcare. In the case of inpatient addiction care, government intervention in the market may have contributed to Montanans traveling hours for treatment.
Thankfully, the legislature passed a Frontier Institute proposal this spring to repeal Montana’s CON laws, helping open more options for inpatient addiction care, home healthcare, outpatient surgery centers and more.
While other states have struggled to repeal CON laws, Montana’s legislature should be commended for taking a stand for healthcare access and passing the most significant CON reform in years.
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- With record turnout on the Missoula County Community Survey this year, 67% of Missoulians said boosting the supply of affordable housing should be the top priority for the county.
Policymakers should be taking notes on this survey. Numerous residents said housing regulations are too restrictive and need reform. Additionally, most prioritized boosting the supply of housing before expanding existing subsidy programs. This survey makes exceedingly clear what local leaders need to do to address the public’s concerns: Focus on streamlining rulebooks and eliminating needless regulations that hold up housing development.
- A recent report from the Missoula Realtors found that “93% of Missoula County had constraints that limited development,” and it takes “on average 50 months to move a project through city approval and 87 months when seeking county approval.”
We’ll save you the trouble of doing the math: That’s 7 years and 4 months for county approval, and that’s the average, meaning many projects must wait even longer than that. Perhaps the worst part is we’ll never know how many projects are permanently sitting on the sidelines because developers can’t afford to wait 7 years or more to get started. Really, who can?
- The Tax Foundation breaks down the impact of Montana’s significant tax reforms this spring: “A taxpayer making $20,500 a year—the point at which the new second bracket would kick in—would have paid $783 in taxes last year under the current system, but only $381 under S.B. 399 had it been in effect that year.”
As the Foundation notes, Montana’s reforms will help make our state more attractive to taxpayers and businesses moving out of high tax states, which will pay dividends for our economy in the long run.