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Although state certificate- of-need (CON) programs have been the subject of intense criticism over the past decade, recent evidence suggests that CON programs may be more effective than commonly believed. While many state programs have yielded disappointing results, the CON process can also be used to achieve other important policy objectives, such as increasing access to care for the uninsured and increasing lay participation in health policy planning. In sum, rather than fading away after the termination of federal support for health planning in 1986, state CON programs are poised to assume new roles during the 1990s.