by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
The health care industry has undergone many major changes in the 21st century, but North Carolina’s rules and regulations haven’t kept up. That is the theme of JLF’s Jordan Roberts’ most recent opinion piece featured in Carolina Journal. Roberts writes:
In any given sector of the American economy, there will be natural innovations that stoke hesitation and fear in people’s minds. We have seen examples of this throughout history — trains, the telephone, TV, and the internet all scared people upon their creation. Now they’re engrained in our lives. I see some similarities in the way innovators are changing health care now. Skeptics may be hindering innovation with an insistence on regulation.
Roberts references new market phenomena like telemedicine and outpatient surgery centers as places where the government has inhibited growth and development. Roberts also mentions scope-of-practice laws which keep nurses from exercising their full capabilities in the medical field. Roberts explains:
America suffers from declining numbers of physicians who choose to enter primary care. Furthermore, many Americans live in a medical desert, where there aren’t enough primary care doctors. Nurse practitioners are helping fill this void. According to a recently published study in Health Affairs, the nurse practitioner workforce grew from 91,000 in 2010, to 190,000 in 2017. Yet 12 states, including North Carolina, impose strict supervisory requirements on how a nurse practitioner can practice. Freeing nurse practitioners and other advanced practice registered nurses from these unnecessary regulations would grant them the opportunity to practice where they want, including in more rural areas that desperately need extra personnel.
Government regulations don’t just fail to keep up with evolving technologies and industry standards; they actively inhibit innovation and progress. We see this with the government’s failure to keep pace with the rapidly expanding capabilities of nurses, we see it with the government’s restrictions on out-of-state practitioners, and we see it in the government’s restriction of surgery centers through certificate-of-need laws.
Oftentimes, the best way to prevent outdated regulation from preventing future progress is to never implement restrictive regulations in the first place. Roberts writes:
The point of this is to say health care regulations may be harming natural medical innovation. Just like in other sectors of the economy, innovators are creating new ways to meet demand. But this isn’t innovation for innovation sake. These are attempts by private actors to solve complex problems within our health care system that can drastically lower costs, extend access, and improve health. But these innovators are often hamstrung in how they can practice medicine because of restrictive regulations.