by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
New Bern eye surgeon’s suit says law blocks him from providing lower-cost service
RALEIGH — The John Locke Foundation has filed an amicus brief in Singleton v. NC DHHS, the lawsuit filed against the State of North Carolina by New Bern eye surgeon Dr. Jay Singleton. The brief was filed in Wake County Superior Court and was written by Jon Guze, Locke’s senior fellow in legal studies and a licensed attorney with 20 years of experience.
A Superior Court hearing in the case is scheduled later this week.
Dr. Singleton contends the state’s Certificate-of-Need (CON) law is unconstitutional and infringes on his right to best serve his patients. Dr. Singleton operates the Singleton Vision Center in New Bern, where he maintains a fully equipped and accredited surgery and recovery center. He has performed roughly 30,000 eye surgeries during his career.
Rather than allow this trained physician to provide quality, lower-cost care to his patients, North Carolina’s CON law restricts Dr. Singleton’s work. While the law permits him to perform outpatient procedures like cataract surgeries at his vision center on an “incidental, limited” basis, it forces him to perform most of those same procedures at a hospital. The requirement is in place even though performing the procedures at the hospital is more expensive and less convenient for his patients, and even though performing them at the vision center is equally safe.
According to Guze, the fact that CON dictates when and where Dr. Singleton can perform the very same procedure proves there’s no health or safety justification for the law. “This is a clear case of economic protectionism that harms North Carolinians and is forbidden by North Carolina’s Constitution,” Guze said. “Not only is the CON law unconstitutional, as Dr. Singleton asserts, but it directly harms patients and taxpayers by making health care more expensive and less accessible.”
Guze’s brief illustrates the deleterious effects of the CON law on public health and the economy. It also explains that, but for the CON law, Dr. Singleton would extend the benefits of lower-cost care to more patients. “It is clear the CON law should be struck down or repealed by the General Assembly,” Guze said.
State legislators have filed at least eight bills this year addressing repeal, reform, or modification of CON laws.
The State of North Carolina is asking the court to dismiss Dr. Singleton’s case. A hearing in Singleton v. NCDHHS is scheduled for Thursday, June 3.
For more information on the brief or certificate-of-need law
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies
John Locke Foundation
For media inquiries or to schedule an interview
Mitch Kokai, [email protected]