As of late, Connecticut has seen an unprecedented streak of hospital mergers and consolidations that claim to increase efficiencies in healthcare. More than half of the 29 acute-care hospitals in Connecticut now operate in networks with other hospitals and out-of-state partners-something experts say will reduce market competition and drive up prices. Adding to this is a proposal from a private company, which would convert four non-profit hospitals in the state into for-profit entities.
Numerous studies and data from the federal Medicare program suggest that such mergers and for-profit conversions lead to higher prices. The state also does not have a “comprehensive blueprint guiding hospital configuration” or a way to limit the number of takeovers or networks it allows. A review of Medicare pricing data shows that hospitals in the state are part of networks which charge more for common procedures than independent hospitals. In addition, for-profit hospitals bill Medicare at higher rates-up to 25 percent higher.
Between 2009 and 2013, there have been seven hospital consolidations and partnerships in Connecticut (there were only four in the entire prior decade). This month, Yale New Haven Health System partnered with the for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corporation to offer statewide clinical services. Connecticut lawmakers say that they will be reviewing the for-profit conversion to make sure that patients continue to have access to affordable care. But, experts say that lawmakers need to seriously weigh finances, patient access and services in deciding if mergers are indeed benefiting consumers.
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