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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

Oct 1, 2021 - Health

Louisiana health system to charge employees with unvaccinated partners

Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The largest health care system in Louisiana will charge its employees $200 a month if a spouse or domestic partner covered under its health plan is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, NOLA reports.

Why it matters: The new rule, which will take effect in 2022, comes as the vast majority of coronavirus patients who end up hospitalized are unvaccinated.

15 mins ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.