KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Rush To Merge Doctors And Hospitals Is Raising Consumers’ Concerns

Several news outlets have stories about the effects of the new health law.

New York Times: "When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs. Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare. Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve - by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses" (Pear, 11/20).

NPR: "[M]ost of the big players -- hospitals groups, a lot of doctor groups, drug makers, employers, even health insurers" are not in favor of repealing the health law. "Which is not to say that they all love the law or that they don't want to see changes. But some of them, particularly health insurers, are agitating for bigger changes than others. But almost without exception, they say they'd rather work to make changes to this law than scrap it and start over" (Rovner and Simon, 11/20).

Rochester N.Y. Democrat and Chronicle: "In the fractious American family of party politics, government and free markets, health care costs are the unmanageable teenager, oblivious to efforts at control or even comprehension.Teenagers tend to grow up and become manageable. Health costs nationally, in New York state and in the Rochester region so far haven't." Despite the national health debate that produced a federal law, confusion remains. "'The uncertainty is worse now than before,' said Rochester health consultant John Cogan. New York state this year reinstated a 'prior approval' process requiring private health insurers to submit premium increases for state review. The goal was to ensure that premiums reflect the cost of care. The results: Some requests were moderated, but approved 2011 increases for Rochester-area insurers exceed 10 percent, much as they did before the new, tougher law" (Tobin, 11/21).

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