Viewpoint: Why politicians stray from criticizing hospitals

While healthcare continues to be a key issue for Democratic presidential candidates, not enough focus is being directed at high hospital prices, according to Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, former New York Times correspondent and editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News.

In a Sept. 1 opinion article published by the Times, Dr. Rosenthal argued that presidential candidates have given hospital prices "a total pass" when discussing necessary changes to make the U.S. healthcare system more affordable. Instead, they've directed much of their criticism at insurers and pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Rosenthal pointed to recent data showing hospital spending reflects 44 percent of personal expenses for privately insured Americans. Hospital prices are also a bigger driver of healthcare spending growth for the privately insured than physician prices, a study published in Health Affairs found.

Dr. Rosenthal said a "web of ties binds politicians to the healthcare system" and is a big reason hospitals evade political criticism.

"Every senator, virtually every congressman and every mayor of every large city has a powerful hospital system in his or her district. And those hospitals are as politically untouchable as soybean growers in Iowa or oil producers in Texas," she said.

"Beyond that, hospitals are often beloved by constituents. It's easy to get voters riled up about a drug maker in Silicon Valley or an insurer in Hartford. It's much riskier to try to direct their venom at the place where their children were born; that employed their parents as nurses, doctors and orderlies; that sponsored local Little League teams; that was associated with their Catholic Church."

Read the op-ed here

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