Oct 30, 2019

The risks of private equity in health care

Private investment into the health care sector may bring innovation, but it's also led to revenue-seeking behaviors at the expense of patients, three employees of The Commonwealth Fund argue in Harvard Business Review.

By the numbers: There were nearly 800 private equity health care deals in 2018, with a total value of more than $100 billion.

Surprise medical bills have recently put private equity in the spotlight.

  • Many of these bills are generated by specialties commonly backed by private equity, like emergency room care, anesthesiology and radiology.
  • One of the biggest political forces lobbying against Congress' effort to stop surprise medical bills is a group called Doctor Patient Unity, which has spent more than $28 million on ads and is primarily funded by private-equity-backed companies.

The big picture: Physician practices are a common target for private equity firms.

  • These investments may give small practices an alternative to being bought by hospitals, "but, at least in some cases, the investors' strategy appears to be to increase revenues by price-gouging patients when they are most vulnerable," the authors write.
  • Freestanding emerging rooms are also commonly owned by private equity. These have come under fire for their high prices, which can be 22 times higher than what a physician's office charges for the same care.

The bottom line: Price-gouging patients may backfire. "Consumer outrage leads quickly to government intervention," the authors conclude.

Go deeper: Private equity's other stake in surprise medical bills

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The White House is unhappy with private equity's surprise medical billing ads

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The White House hasn't weighed in on how to resolve the debate over surprise medical bills, but Joe Grogan, head of the Domestic Policy Council, had some choice words about ads being run by private equity-backed groups:

What they're saying: "The advertisements that are targeting members on this and are being run by the private equity groups who are using the arbitrage on surprise medical billing should make every American and member want to puke," Grogan told Axios.

Go deeperArrowNov 27, 2019

Private equity on defense in Washington

What's believed to be the first congressional hearing in recent years squarely focused on the practices of private equity firms is happening later this morning.

Why it matters: Private equity is facing "the most serious political challenge it has seen in years," per the WSJ.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

How private equity is fueled by public pension plans

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Private equity's loudest political antagonists were back at it over the weekend, wrongly arguing that Taylor Swift's contract dispute is illustrative of the industry's rapaciousness.

What happened: While Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez each tweeted that private equity must be "reined in," they'll need to publicly wrestle at some point with how private equity is fueled by public pension systems that they otherwise support.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019