For-profit chains are gobbling up local hospitals. What trend in the broader US economy explains this behavior?

One trend in recent years is how many hospitals are being purchased by large regional or national hospital chains. An April 2019 slide deck from the NIHCM Foundation shows this trend graphically. A paper by Hsieh and Rossi-Hansberg (2019) provide some aggregate data as well as a case study from the Boston area. Four decades…

Trends in hospital consolidation

The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) has some nice slides describing trends in hospital consolidation. First, we see a trend of increased hospitalizations over time. Further, these mergers are not small. In 49% of cases, the acquired (i.e., smaller) hospital has revenue of >$100m and in 19% of cases the acquired hospitals has…

Market consolidation in California

Yesterday, I discussed the idea of managed competition in California.  One of the original tenets of managed competition was insurers having integrated, mutually exclusive provider networks.  This would mean much more consolidation on the provider side.  While this could improve quality, there is also a risk that prices could rise.  In fact, this is what…

Do hospital purchases of physician practices increase or decrease prices?

The effect of health care industry consolidation on prices is a question argued about by many including researchers, economists, anti-trust, lawyers, regulators and more.  There is evidence that health plan consolidation increases premiums, and hospital consolidation increases price. For instance, Dafny et al. 2015 writes: The harsh reality is that it’s difficult to find well-documented…

Did the ACA cause industry consolidation?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)–among other things–mandated a number of reforms to the Medicare reimbursement system.  For instance, the ACA created Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and bundled payment initiatives were initiatives.  If Medicare started paying providers more based on quality and total cost of care across all provider settings, one would hypothesize that industry consolidation would accelerate.…