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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.

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.

  • A large portion relies on non-random interviews of hospital executives who have been involved with acquisitions.
  • The data analysis focuses on costs, not prices, which skews the conclusions.
  • These analysts are paid consultants, and the report was not peer-reviewed.

Reality check: Academic researchers countered the AHA's report by laying out their own independent work.

  • One of the most comprehensive studies, which was published last year and is based on commercial insurance claims data, found that hospitals with little competition command higher prices and more favorable contractual terms, said Zack Cooper, a Yale health economist and lead author of the study.
  • Hospital systems in different metro areas also raise prices when they combine, said Leemore Dafny, a Harvard health economist.
  • Merging systems don't really save money on routine items like supplies and devices, said Stuart Craig, a research student at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Large hospital systems beget even larger systems, which operate more like publicly traded companies than tax-exempt charities.

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.

The bottom line: "This sort of consolidation is raising prices and driving up health care costs," Cooper said.

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President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

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GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

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Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.