Insurers versus hospital/physician groups food fight

A recent opinion piece in JAMA by David Cutler PhD Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics in the Department of Economics and Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a member of the Institute of Medicine lays out issues with mega mergers going on in the health care environment.

Dr. Cutler was an advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama. He was also intimately involved with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

He points to Aetna and Humana announcing their intention to merge, as well as Anthem and Cigna to become the big three instead of the ‘big five.’ Naturally, physician and hospital groups are unhappy. But, insurers point to the growing consolidation of large physician groups and mainly hospitals, which they claim is giving them too much leverage and raising costs. He says that all sides then drag the federal Government into the food fight. Now, everyone knows that is a recipe for disaster. Both camps are calling on the FTC to review anti-trust issues of mergers. Dr. Cutler mentions several questions as a result of these skirmishes but does not really give any answers. He ends with more questions!

Why are these ‘experts’ afraid to speak up? They are going to upset someone or the other. Pretty soon the fight will be over when the big insurers buy hospitals and big physician groups. The answer lies into who has more clout (donated more money to campaign coffers). The FTC does not operate in a vacuum.