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Carolina Journal reports: Forsyth County surgeon challenges constitutionality of CON laws

Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal about a lawsuit challenging certificate of need [CON] regulations in North Carolina. Dr. Gajendra Singh’s lawsuit, filed in Wake County Superior Court, seeks to block certificate of need laws that prevent him from buying an MRI scanner for Forsyth Imaging Center, a business he founded in Winston-Salem in 2017.

The lawsuit claims CON laws are unconstitutional, and have been struck down once by the state Supreme Court. It contends CON laws suppress economic liberty, violate Singh’s constitutional due process and equal protection rights, and violate the constitutional exclusive emoluments clause. That clause bars granting special privileges or profits to some while prohibiting them to others.

“It’s the basic right to earn an honest living, and it’s a right that’s under assault in America every day,” Renee Flaherty, an IJ attorney, said at a Tuesday press conference. She called North Carolina’s 25 CON regulations among the worst of 34 states that still impose them.

“The North Carolina Constitution expressly prohibits monopolies and special privileges, demands that laws be applied even-handedly, and protects Dr. Singh’s right to participate in the health care market free from arbitrary, irrational, and protectionist legislation,” the lawsuit states.

Singh is an award-winning general, abdominal, and cancer surgeon. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and already uses a CT scanner, X-ray machines, and ultrasound machines in his office. An MRI scanner would offer a clearer view of his patients’ organs and tissue, allowing him to diagnose them more precisely. But, before he can purchase an MRI scanner, he must get permission from a centralized planning agency in Raleigh that will decide whether he needs this new piece of equipment.

Certificate of need laws set noncompetitive prices. Singh would be able to offer his patients an MRI scan in his office that would otherwise cost them more than twice as much at a hospital. Without CON laws, patients would have more options at lower prices. Read more about Singh’s lawsuit here.

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