Minnesota and Louisiana Lawmakers, Consumers Take Action Against Potentially Harmful Hospital Mergers 

By Consumers for Quality Care, on April 17, 2024

Minnesota and Louisiana Lawmakers, Consumers Take Action Against Potentially Harmful Hospital Mergers 

Elected officials, antitrust enforcers, health care advocates, and consumers in Minnesota and Louisiana have taken steps to combat the prevalence of health care system merger proposals. Such mergers often promise better health care outcomes at decreased costs but often fail to deliver on both promises, according to Stateline

Mergers among health giants have become more popular because they benefit hospital systems financially. But it is consumers who ultimately pay the price as cost-cutting measures affect patient care. 

In 2022, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison learned that Fairview Health Services, based in Minnesota, was considering merging with Sanford Health, a larger health care system based in South Dakota. This proposal drew significant criticism from Minnesota stakeholders, with Ellison stating, “We have seen situations…in certain health care transactions where a lot of promises were made, but when you look into it, clinics are closing, prices are going up, access is down.”  

The next year, Minnesota policymakers passed a bill empowering the Attorney General to reject certain mergers. This law positioned Minnesota as a national leader in addressing the harmful effects of hospital consolidation. The merger was ultimately called off.  

Louisiana witnessed a similar dispute earlier this year, when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana was set to be acquired by Elevance Health. State Senators sent a report to Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner outlining concerns over the proposed merger. and others have warned about Elevance’s long history of engaging in anti-consumer practices. Louisiana State Senator Jeremy Stine said that he is working on a bill that would scrutinize health care merger proposals to “…prevent any undue influence, personal gain, or hasty decision-making that may compromise the health and well-being of our community.” 

As hospital mergers have become more popular, lawmakers and regulators at the state and federal levels have grown more skeptical. At least ten health care deals were abandoned last year. Additionally, the FTC recently released updated antitrust guidelines to better scrutinize these mergers. 

Decreased competition hurts consumers, often leading to fewer options for care and higher out-of-pocket costs. CQC urges regulators and lawmakers to keep a close eye on hospital mergers. Consumers should not have to foot the bill for anti-competitive practices.