Last week the NC Court of Appeals, in a little-noticed case, upheld an important principle of our health care law here in North Carolina. The state’s “certificate of need” law is in large part meant to ensure that health facilities – like hospitals and surgery centers – aren’t only located in the wealthy and populous areas of the state like the Triangle. After all, when left to the pure free market, why would anyone want to put health facilities in poor rural parts of the state since, after all, you just can’t make as much money there? That’s not how we run things in NC and some health providers didn’t like this and challenged the ability of the state to help people have access to health care facilities. The NC Court of Appeals disagreed saying:
The General Assembly’s desire to ensure that citizens have affordable access to necessary health care is a legitimate goal, and it is a reasonable belief that this goal would be achieved by allowing approval of new institutional health services only when a need for such services had been determined.
It’s a small but critical part of health reform. That’s why we here at the NC Justice Center filed a brief with the court in the case supporting just this result. It will also be interesting to see as health reform is implemented and more and more North Carolinians in the most rural areas of our state are covered by affordable health insurance whether this changes the economic incentives for organizations building hospitals and other health care facilities. Stay tuned.