The changing hospital landscape is harmful to our health
Hospitals are in the news a lot lately and it is not for good things.
Just look at stories from the last 2 months:
- Yale New Haven Health proposes to take over 3 hospitals currently owned by another hospital chain, which would bring the number of Connecticut hospitals in their system to 9
- Three hospitals have closed or plan to close labor and delivery services - Windham Hospital, Johnson Memorial Hospital and Sharon Hospital
- Two lawsuits were filed against Hartford Healthcare, which owns 8 hospitals in Connecticut, for anti-competitive practices
What do these different stories have in common?
Hospitals are building and exercising their power like never before, and it is finally getting noticed:
- Hospital consolidation, including buying up medical groups, means the large systems have more and more bargaining power to demand and get higher prices from insurers and patients
- Hospitals are focused on expanding high profit-making services like joint replacements and cardiac care, sometimes by luring revenue-generating physicians away from competitors
- Hospitals are making decisions to close high-cost/low-revenue services like labor and delivery
Since 2000, our state has gone from having close to 30 independent, nonprofit hospitals to only 5 (Griffin, Bristol, Middlesex, Stamford and CT Children’s Medical Center). All the rest are now part of, or about to join bigger hospital systems.
Hospitals do not compete based on quality (who even knows how good the quality is at their local hospital or how it is measured?) or by lowering their prices.
In this “market” of growing monopoly power, certain hospital systems have the power to set and demand higher prices - prices that drive up the cost of health insurance for employers and families.
Contrary to what you may have heard, hospital prices have everything to do with bargaining power and nothing to do with how much free care they deliver or how many Medicaid patients they serve.
The fact is, hospital prices, even more than prescription drug prices, are driving year-to-year increases in medical expenditures.
Amid these rapid changes and a hospital eco-system that seemingly values growth and revenues at the expense of the well-being of the communities that count on them, how do we hold hospitals accountable for meeting the needs of our communities?
These are nonprofit institutions chartered to serve the residents of our state.
Yes, hospitals provide life-saving care and are a vital part of our health care system. At the same time, they are businesses, growing bigger and more powerful all the time.
The change is so rapid that the people of Connecticut, local communities, or the legislators and regulators we rely on to stand up for us cannot keep up.
Finally, a response to this unchecked power is brewing:
And Universal is active in all three accountability efforts.
- Communities are organizing and pushing back against the wholesale closure of needed services
- Cost control efforts are underway, led by the state’s Office of Health Strategy
- Two bills have been introduced at the state Capitol to hold hospitals accountable and protect patients and communities
At Universal, we are in the fight to hold hospitals accountable to all of us.