The proposed merger of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health into a six-state medical behemoth pocketing $27 billion in annual revenue raises many red flags. Chief among those is the monopolistic nature of the alliance, which would be the sixth largest health system in the country. North Carolina, already home to one of the country’s top five metropolitan markets with the highest level of health care concentration, is no stranger to the ill effects of consolidation. Research consistently shows mergers and acquisitions do not deliver on hospital executives’ promises, but instead trigger higher costs, reduced access and the same or lower level of care.
With independent hospital and physician practices increasingly on life support, more mega-mergers are the wrong prescription for the health care industry. Consumers of health care, and the taxpayers who pick up the tab for tax-exempt, multibillion-dollar investment companies disguised as nonprofit hospitals, which are run by multimillionaire executives, ultimately will pay the cost of this ill-advised merger.
The Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice and the N.C. Attorney General’s Office all have broad authority over hospital mergers. I encourage them and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to exercise diligent oversight, and conduct a vigorous examination of this merger to stop and reverse the punishment that these health care cartels are having on the citizens of North Carolina.