The Case for Ending Hospital Consolidations

By Consumers for Quality Care, on December 21, 2022

The Case for Ending Hospital Consolidations

In an opinion piece appearing in The Hill, Brian Miller, MD, MPH, and Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, share their perspectives on hospital consolidations and how monopolies in the American health care system are hurting consumers.

Miller and Ehrenfeld highlight how these hospital consolidations end up contributing to increased insurance premiums, higher costs for hospital services, and often, negative consumer experiences.

Two common tactics found in hospital contracts that enable monopoly style business practices are “anti-steering” and “anti-tiering.” These methods prevent insurance plans from allowing patients to see other doctors and physicians at lower costs. In 2018, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division took action against Atrium Health for these types of practices. 

Miller and Ehrenfeld believe the Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission should investigate to see if more anti-competitive behavior is happening in hospital systems. Another tool they say would help cut down on anti-competitive practices is to create a State Competition Index, which would include data and analytics on hospital mergers, licensing requirements, and concentration across markets and geographical areas.

Dr. Miller and Dr. Ehrenfeld conclude by stating, “With hospital monopolies gouging Americans, now is the time for reasonable reforms to promote choice and competition. It’s our profession’s prescription for a better system for all.”

Decreased competition has negative impacts on consumers, often leading to fewer options and higher costs. CQC urges regulators and lawmakers to continue to keep a close eye on hospital mergers and take action to prevent consumers from footing the bill.