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Jan 8, 2016

Federal power can have a corrupting influence on state policy.

That's a lesson from the past that's still relevent in the present, as this week's Watchdog Podcast explores.

Host Eric Boehm sits down with Chris Koopman of the Mercatus Center to talk about the history of Certificate of Need laws for health care.

It begins in the 1960s. That’s when the first few states enacted such laws, beginning with New York in 1964.

At first, the CON laws were pretty simple. New York’s required a permit from the state government before new hospitals or nursing homes could be built. In 1972 Congress issued a mandate requiring all states to pass a rudimentary CON law. Two years later, the federal government doubled down on that mandate with the National Health Planning and Resources Development Act, requiring states to implement CON requirements in order to receive funding through federal programs such as Medicaid.

The arm-twisting worked: Every state but Louisiana passed a CON law for hospitals and health care providers before the end of the 1970s.

One problem: it didn’t work. By the mid-1980s, some states began repealing their CON laws, even under the threat of losing federal funds. In 1987, Congress officially repealed the 1974 act and left the states to decide for themselves how to proceed. Today there are still 36 states with CON laws on the books.

"It shows the sticky-ness of bad policy."' Koopman says.

But today, we're still letting the federal government dictate policy. Just this week, President Barack Obama announced a series of new gun control policies that he hopes to implement, by-passing congressional approval. 

Watchdog's Matt Kittle joins the podcast to talk about how Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) responded to the president's plan. More importantly: if the executive branch can by-pass Congress on issues as sensitive as the Second Amendment, have we reached a new level of federal power?

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