Congresswomen float bill to curb anticompetitive hospital behavior

U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., on Dec. 13 introduced the bipartisan Stop Anticompetitive Healthcare Act, which would update the Federal Trade Commission Act to expand antitrust enforcement to nonprofit hospitals.

Currently, the FTC has jurisdiction to review all hospital mergers, but it is prohibited from enforcing antitrust laws against any anticompetitive practices of nonprofit entities, which comprise more than 48 percent of all U.S. hospitals, according to the American Hospital Association. 

"There is no question that hospital consolidation hurts patients by causing healthcare costs to jump and removing choice," Ms. Jayapal said in a Dec. news release. "My bipartisan bill with Congresswoman Spartz would put in important guardrails to prevent corporations from putting profits over proper patient care without changing anything else about a hospital's nonprofit status." 

Before the pandemic, a 2020 report from Medicare Payment Advisory Commission found that hospital mergers lead to higher healthcare prices for patients. In addition, 90 percent of hospital markets would be deemed highly concentrated by FTC standards, and in most markets, a single hospital system had more than a 50 percent market share of discharges.

"Hospital consolidation and lack of competition is a major factor driving unsustainable health care prices," Ms. Spartz said. "More than one of eight Americans and one of six Hoosiers are in collections due to medical debt, which is unacceptable. Nonprofit hospital status should not be a loophole to avoid antitrust enforcement."

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