Bloomberg News is strongly urging policymakers to pay close attention to the disturbing trend of hospital mergers because it threatens to make healthcare more expensive:
“Hospitals account for roughly a third of America’s $3.8-trillion-a-year medical bill (nearly double what other affluent countries pay per capita). As they grow bigger, hospital systems strengthen their pricing power. Companies have to include them in the health-care networks they offer their employees, limiting their ability to negotiate discounts. In most communities, even the largest employer represents only a small share of a big hospital’s business. In monopoly markets, prices are 12% higher than in places with four or more competing hospitals, research shows.
“As hospital prices rise, they push up insurance premiums for employers. That expense gets passed to employees in the form of bigger premium contributions, greater out-of-pocket costs (co-pays and deductibles), and lower wages. Taxpayers take a hit, too, as the employer-health-insurance tax exclusion — already the largest federal tax subsidy — expands…
“Federal and state policy makers need to study a variety of strategies to deal with hospitals’ outsized market power…
“Containing the ongoing surge ofU.S. health costs ought to be a national priority. The challenge admits of no easy solutions, and many different approaches will have to be tested. But business as usual is an option the country can no longer afford.”
The trend of hospital mergers and consolidations is one of the biggest causes of rising healthcare costs. All data shows that mergers between healthcare providers cause prices to go up and quality to go down.
North Carolina’s policymakers and leaders need to make addressing this trend a top priority.