Good morning. Today's word count is 840 words, or ~3 minutes.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A new report funded by the American Hospital Association claims hospital mergers result in better care and savings for patients. But every other independent study shows the exact opposite — that hospital mergers lead to less competition and higher prices, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Why it matters: Hospitals represent the largest chunk of U.S. health care spending. And hospitals are acquiring more market power and commanding higher prices — bills that every American pays for in some part.
Driving the news: AHA CEO Rick Pollack told journalists Wednesday that hospital mergers "create efficiencies that unleash savings," and that his organization's report proved it.
Yes, but: The report is not close to being an independent assessment.
Reality check: Academic researchers countered the AHA's report by laying out their own independent work.
Not all hospital mergers are inherently bad. But "consolidation … is not the same thing as integration," said Martin Gaynor, a health economist at Carnegie Mellon University.
American jails and prisons end up becoming de facto health care institutions, but there can be little accountability for the private companies in charge of inmates' care, Reuters reports.
Case in point: Reuters dives into the story of a Georgia county jail, the company hired to manage the jail's health care services, and how local politics tied into it all.
The big picture: "The Chatham County Detention Center's troubles offer a look into the challenges American communities face in holding accountable the private companies that have been entrusted with managing healthcare services at a growing number of jails and prisons," Reuters writes.
Federal Judge Richard Leon has officially approved CVS Health's acquisition of Aetna, writing in an opinion that the companies' settlement of selling off Medicare drug plans "is well 'within the reaches' of the public interest," Bob writes.
The big picture: CVS has been operating as if the merger was completed, and legal experts said the judge didn't have the authority to unwind the deal. This final order puts everything to rest, including concerns that combining CVS and Aetna will lead to anti-competitive conduct in different health care markets.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
During the family separation crisis last year, Health and Human Services facilities struggled to provide adequate mental health care to migrant children as required under the Flores agreement, according to a new agency watchdog report.
Why it matters: Many of these migrant minors had already faced significant trauma in their home countries and in their travel to the border — such as physical abuse, kidnapping, rape and other forms of violence, according to the report, my colleague Stef Kight writes.
What to watch: Dozens of migrant parents are preparing to sue the U.S. government, claiming their children were harmed while in HHS custody during family separation, AP reported last month. It found taxpayers could end up having to pay $200 million in damages.
Michigan yesterday became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes after the state's health department deemed youth vaping a public health emergency, the Washington Post reports.
The big picture, per Axios' Sam Baker: This first ban came fast, all things considered. And it’s notable that it's not coming from California or New York, which are usually at the leading edge of banning things. That's a clear sign that the next phase of vaping's political troubles is just beginning.
The backdrop: While Michigan is the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, San Francisco was the first major city to do so in June. The ban has prompted e-cigarette maker Juul to pour millions into overturning it, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes.
Go deeper: Juul's growing kids crisis