The nation’s network of hospitals is asking Congress for an additional $25 billion to help defray the costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. It turns out hospitals have lost a lot of lucrative business in recent months, and they believe Uncle Sam should fill the holes in their balance sheets:

The pandemic has slammed hospitals with higher costs for personnel and supplies while limiting the day-to-day medical procedures and operations that pay the bills. Some states and hospitals have paused elective surgeries to make room for coronavirus patients struggling to survive. Meanwhile, earlier rounds of federal funding meant to help tide hospitals over are winding down, and more pressure is looming from changes in Medicare payments.

The hospital group asked Congress to immediately distribute the money remaining in the $178 billion Provider Relief Fund and the $8.5 billion rural hospital fund. No distributions have been made or announced since the delta and omicron variants caused new spikes in hospitalizations, the group said.

There’s no question that waves of unvaccinated people clogging emergency rooms and consuming hospital beds have put some health systems on the brink of collapse.

But asking government (read: taxpayers) to make up the revenue shortfalls because of fewer tummy tucks is not an optimal use of funds.

Instead, what the government could do to ease congestion in the health care system is encourage more competition. One way to do that: eliminate so-called certificates of need, a pernicious means some health care providers use to stifle entrepreneurs who would provide those elective services, often at lower costs.