Hospital industry

Sanford, UnityPoint propose giant hospital system merger

Buildings with the Sanford signage on top.
Most of Sanford Health's hospitals and clinics are in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Photo: Sanford Health

Sanford Health and UnityPoint Health have agreed to merge, a move that would create a 76-hospital, tax-exempt system with $11 billion in revenue and an influential position throughout the Midwest and Great Plains.

Why it matters: Regional hospital systems merging into super-regional behemoths has been the trend for the past several years. But studies continue to show the combinations often to lead to higher prices and premiums for patients as the systems gain greater market power over health insurers.

Hospitals' profits cost patients billions

Hospital room with medical equipment
Photo: Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

Once you pull together Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, hospitals end up with an average payment rate that's about 34% higher than what Medicare pays on its own, according to a report by the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Why it matters: Hospitals are by far the biggest driver of U.S. health care spending, making hospital care a prime target for payment cuts — but the industry maintains that it couldn't survive solely on the rates government programs pay.