Mergers and acquisitions directly affect care and patient access to it. Is this a good idea? Himachal Mukhopadhyay discusses the pros and cons.
Merging of healthcare payers and providers undoubtedly impact both the cost of care and patient’s access to it and according to industry insider Himachal Mukhopadhyay, it’s important to have a clear view of the impact in the long run.
It’s a question which has a considerable debate across the medical industry as a whole, putting antitrust laws as well as current care models into the spotlight, and determining whether their future is viable.
Healthcare Mergers Increasing
According to numerous sources, healthcare mergers between payers and providers is on the rise. Up 13 percent more in 2017 than in 2016, these mergers have prompted fierce debate within the industry about what this means for the future of healthcare, for payers, providers, and patients.
There are both pros and cons. Pessimists of mergers think that massive healthcare mergers mean that there are fewer options available when it comes to choosing healthcare payers and providers. This limits competition, which in turn stifles innovation and prevents prices from dropping. Ultimately, if this creates a healthcare monopoly, it will hit the patient the hardest, leading to massive cost increases and lower rates of access.
Gregory Curfman, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, agrees.
“When individual hospitals merge into larger systems, they gain a larger share of the consumer health market,” Curfman wrote in an article for a Harvard Health blog. “That puts them in a position to ask health insurance companies to pay more for medical care and procedures.
These higher prices are not borne by the insurers, but by consumers in the form of greater premiums. Thus, some economists argue, mergers drive up health care costs and place added financial pressure on consumers.”
Supporters of healthcare mergers, however, say that the outlook isn’t as dark as others make it out to be, and professionals such as Himachal Mukhopadhyay believe it’s important to see both sides of the debate.
Mergers, they argue, are necessary to weather the changes which are currently affecting the industry as a whole, throughout the country, and that by consolidating resources and businesses, they will be able to provide more effective healthcare throughout the country while keeping a cap on spending.
They also claim that structural changes to healthcare institutions could lower costs, meaning that patients will ultimately pay less.