Poll Showing Majority Support for COPN Is Meaningless

Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

by James A. Bacon

A new Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered voters commissioned by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) finds that Virginians prefer to keep the Certificate of Public Need program by a three-to-one margin.

“Overall, nearly two-thirds of Virginians (62 percent) express support for the current health care delivery system with COPN in place,” states a press release accompanying the poll. “These findings are consistent with results from a June 2019 statewide poll in which 55 percent of Virginians said they support preserving COPN, compared to just 13 percent in opposition to the program.”

Critics of COPN say that Virginia’s major hospital systems have gamed the regulations to stifle competition with one another, shut down competition with physician-backed ambulatory care centers, and carve out geographic monopolies. Thanks to the regulations, Virginia’s “nonprofit” hospitals enjoy hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits. Hospitals defend the regulations on the grounds that interlopers would “skim the cream,” providing care to the most profitable patients and dumping less profitable patients on hospitals.

The poll results are a dubious measure of public opinion, however.

The first problem with VHHA spin on the poll is that it doesn’t match the results found in its own summary of the poll results. Where did VHHA get the “62 percent” figure? Not from the chart above, which was distributed with the press release.

The second problem is that 33% of Virginians said they are “not sure” what to think. Little surprise, considering that the polling question reads as follows: “Do you think Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need program should be kept in place or eliminated”? I question whether two-thirds of Virginian voters know what COPN is. Without some understanding of what the regulations do and their impact on competition and healthcare costs, a poll participant’s response is meaningless.

A third problem with the poll results is that it doesn’t measure the intensity of peoples’ opinions. The gun-rights protesters who rallied in Richmond Monday may represent a minority of public opinion, but no one disputes the fact that they hew to their opinions with great passion. Even if a majority of Virginians say they support COPN, I would argue, their convictions are paper thin and could change easily.

Here’s what people need to focus on: Virginians who are privately insured in the non-subsidized commercial market pay the highest premiums for family medical coverage in the country. Why? The primary reason is that Virginia healthcare providers charge so much. Hospitals are determined to preserve COPN because it protects market share and allows the biggest and most powerful among them to reap monopoly profits. You think Dominion Energy is over-billing the public? Dominion ain’t got nothing on the hospital lobby.

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4 responses to “Poll Showing Majority Support for COPN Is Meaningless

  1. I agree that most folks don’t know but I also think the anti-COPN folks are more ideological than can offer specific actual benefits like lower cost services. It’s a theory – not a real outcome.

    The proponents, for instance, could do what Northam did for car inspections and show that 35 other states did away with it – with no real discernible impact – ones that can be shown by opponents as real.

    Ditto with COPN. Show me some real data that shows that states that did away with it – actually have lower costs and no, it cannot just come from some Conservative think tank slicing and dicing data.

    Conservative types believe this stuff with all their heart – it confirms their beliefs.. and if real data was available… the poll could actually be set up that way to ask if Virginia should do what other states have – and it did reduce costs”.

  2. Just curious and don’t know but do docs in the box like urgicare need copns?

  3. Understanding “The Virginia Way” Handbook, Rule #7

    “Any time the state legislature restricts a participant in private enterprise from risking his or her own capital to provide a legal service provided by other participants in private enterprise it is an example of special interests having bought off the legislature with campaign contributions.”

    Do I have to publish the whole handbook?

  4. COPN… Government picking winners and losers… that’s reason enough to do away with it….. come up with all the silly statistics you want,,, free enterprise, lots of competition is the way to keep costs down… if it really saved money we could have public need certificates for roofers, hvac companies, grocery stores, the list could be long…..
    And I would say easily 95% of folk have never heard of COPN and don’t know what it means or does…
    PS,,, and while we’re at it we need to get government out of the liquor business,,,, since when is government supposed to run a busines???

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