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Expand chart
Data: Physicians Advocacy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

Nearly 70% of America's physicians were employed by hospitals or corporations by the end of 2020, and nearly half of physician practices were owned by them, according to a new analysis released by the Physicians Advocacy Institute.

Why it matters: The health care industry is becoming increasingly consolidated, which studies suggest will lead to even higher prices.

Flashback: "The coronavirus is shriveling the businesses of doctors' practices, which serve as the home base for most patients," Axios' Bob Herman reported last spring.

  • "Small and independent groups that are facing the most severe cash crunches eventually may be forced into two less-than-ideal options: sell the practice, which would further consolidate the industry and expose patients to higher costs, or close their doors for good."

Between the lines: It looks like Bob's reporting was spot-on.

  • The analysis, which was done by Avalere Health, found that there was a particularly sharp uptick in the number of physician practices owned by non-hospital corporations — like insurers or private equity firms — between January 2019 and January 2021.
Expand chart
Data: Physicians Advocacy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: More than 48,000 physicians left independent practice to become employed by hospitals or other companies — a 13% increase in the number of employed physicians, per the report.

  • The number of practices owned by hospitals or corporations increased by 21% over the two-year time period, the analysis found.

Between the lines: Private equity has been flocking to health care for years, and some private equity-owned providers made a name for themselves by being a frequent source of surprise medical bills.

  • Insurer-owned clinics have been increasingly competing with hospitals and physicians for patients, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.
  • And hospital consolidation amid the pandemic — particularly by systems that received federal coronavirus aid — has recently drawn criticism.
  • “It was not the intent to be a capital infusion to the largest and most financially stable providers to allow them to simply grow their slice of market share,” Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) told the NYT.

The bottom line: The pandemic's fiscal impact on doctors may have only reinforced or accelerated a trend that was already underway. But it certainly didn't stop hospitals from pursuing a lucrative business line, nor did it make the industry less attractive to investors.

Go deeper: Private equity's slow creep into doctors' offices

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Intermountain to acquire SCL Health

Intermountain Healthcare has found a new merger partner. Photo: Intermountain

Intermountain Healthcare will acquire SCL Health roughly six months after Intermountain and Sanford Health ended their merger attempt.

Why it matters: The combined Intermountain-SCL system will own 33 hospitals, will generate more than $13 billion of annual revenue and will dominate several areas throughout Utah and Colorado — consequently gaining leverage over health insurers and employers as a must-have network if the deal is finalized.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.

Updated 5 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.