Viewpoint: Health systems 'gouging' Americans with anti-competitive practices

Hospitals and health systems are "gouging" Americans with their anti-competitive behaviors, and more steps must be taken to reverse such policies, especially at a time of rising inflation and economic pressures, experts said in a Nov. 28 opinion piece in The Hill.

While Congress has taken some "refreshingly" positive steps to reduce such behaviors, more can be done, Brian Miller, MD, assistant professor of medicine and business at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, and Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, senior associate dean of the Milwaukee-based Medical College of Wisconsin and the president-elect of the American Medical Association, wrote in the piece.

"With 2023 bringing divided government and inflation at levels not seen in decades, lowering the cost of health care is a political and moral necessity," the writers said.

Such solutions can include greater powers for antitrust authorities to cut back on hospital practices known as anti-steering, or anti-tiering — contract clauses that health systems use to deter health plans from directing patients to lower-cost physicians. Authorities could also initiate and update a State Competition Index detailing mergers and increasing transparency, the writers say.

There is also too much emphasis on mandating that procedures be done in an inpatient setting, thus encouraging more dominance by health systems.

"With hospital monopolies gouging Americans, now is the time for reasonable reforms to promote choice and competition," Drs. Miller and Ehrenfeld concluded. "It's our profession's prescription for a better system for all."

To read the full opinion piece, click here.

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