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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  • These analysts are paid consultants, and the report was not peer-reviewed.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.

Go deeper

Updated 37 mins ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
50 mins ago - Health

Study finds bias against Black patients written into medical charts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Black patients were more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white patients to have negative descriptors about them in their electronic health record, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: The study is further evidence of bias in the U.S. health care system, which can ultimately result in worse care and disparately poor outcomes.

Jan. 6 panel asks Ivanka Trump to cooperate with investigation

Former President Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on January 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot sent a letter Thursday to Ivanka Trump requesting her cooperation with the investigation.

Driving the news: "We write to request your voluntary cooperation with our investigation on a range of critical topics," the chair wrote in a letter to the former president's daughter.