Congress Aims to Address Consolidation and Mergers in Health Care 

By Consumers for Quality Care, on June 12, 2024

Congress Aims to Address Consolidation and Mergers in Health Care 

There is bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill that health care mergers, consolidation, and acquisitions must be reined in, according to Healthcare Dive.  

Last month, the House Budget Committee held a hearing to highlight how health mergers hurt access to care and health care affordability. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that something must be done to address anti-competitive mergers and the increased prices that result from these deals. According to a 2022 RAND study, hospitals raise prices anywhere from 3 percent to as high as 65 percent after a merger has gone into effect.  

The hearing focused specifically on provider consolidation, where hospitals purchase smaller physician offices and clinics. Adam Bruggeman, an orthopedic surgeon in Texas, testified that under the current health care system, doctors and physicians “have no choice” but to sell their practice. Independent physician practices, as compared to larger health systems, struggle to obtain market power. They also tend to lack the staff needed to handle administrative paperwork and receive razor-thin margins on health-insurance reimbursement rates. Bruggeman emphasized that if this current trend continues, “the idea of the independent physician will continue to fade from our healthcare system.” 

The pace of community hospitals affiliated with a larger health system has significantly increased over the years, jumping from 53 percent in 2005 to 68 percent in 2022. Likewise, the number of doctors practicing in hospitals affiliated with larger systems increased from 29 percent in 2012 to 41 percent in 2022.  

Decreased competition hurts consumers, often leading to fewer options for care and higher out-of-pocket costs. CQC urges regulators and lawmakers to scrutinize mergers in the health care system and work to ensure that consumers do not foot the bill for anti-competitive practices.