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Thursday, January 13, 2022

OPINION:

The adverse effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have reverberated through virtually all sectors of the global economy. They have caused untold heartache for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, who, among other things, lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, personal fortunes and more over the past two years.

What initially began as a matter that even the self-anointed all-knowing authority of all things related to science, Dr. Anthony Fauci, described to Newsmax’s Greg Kelly in January 2020 as “not a major threat to the people of the United States,” quickly became a global crisis that immediately had leaders around the world scrambling to ensure that an appropriate amount of facilities and supplies would be available to the growing number of infected individuals.


In America, one major complication that threatened to grow the number of COVID-19 related fatalities exponentially was the dire financial straits facing many hospitals. With health insurance companies continuing to slash benefits in their never-ending effort to find new ways to limit what health care services they are willing to cover, many hospitals nationally were forced to close their doors to the sick.

American hospitals often shoulder the responsibility to provide care to anyone in need, regardless of their ability to pay. They are continuously hindered when patients are forced to jump through every possible hoop to possibly have a portion of their costs for a visit covered. Now, unfortunately, they face a new reality of increased operating costs while attempting to endure a systematic reduction in revenue.

As a result of this, as well as the fact that over the past several years, public and private funding for hospitals has been drastically reduced, hospitals have been put in a position where they must either adapt so that they can continue serving their patients or be forced to shut down. 

For the time being, some hospitals have been able to continue their attempts to preserve patients’ access to care and emergency services while also revitalizing poorly performing, outdated or inefficient hospitals by creating localized hospital systems.

This series of mergers has effectively allowed these vitally important medical facilities to remain open by helping to relieve the financial strain that many smaller hospitals often face. In most cases, it is the only way that these fiscally restrained facilities can survive and continue to provide access to life-saving care for their patients.

And this strategy of providing reliable access to care comes with a proven track record, as in 2017 when health care organizations across America announced a record 115 merger and acquisition transactions, which was the highest number that decade. In the post-COVID-19 United States, this trend has only increased to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for health care services.

So, what would seem to be a win-win for doctors and facilities, public and private interests, but most of all, patients, is, unfortunately, receiving some troubling pushback from the one player in this game that has been benefitting to the tune of record profits of the past several decades — health insurance providers.

The full-court press coming from health insurance providers and their lobbyists is due to their uniform opposition to mergers, or that matter, any action that they believe may lead to a decrease in their profits. Although these insurance carriers are related to the business of healing the sick, their outward actions are often in direct conflict with the interests of patients and the health care professionals who are trying to treat them.

Unfortunately, most insurance companies find it more cost-effective to spend millions of dollars on maintaining the status quo that sees their profits continue to skyrocket, instead of making some slight and reasonable modifications to their business model that could easily make care more affordable and easier to attain by their customers.

The efforts of these health insurance companies are being aided and abetted by an out-of-touch Federal Trade Commission that is creating unnecessary bureaucratic barriers to more life-saving facility mergers based on outdated, inaccurate information about hospital consolidation, falsely equating the mergers to attempts at monopolization. 

The FTC’s enforcement of this skewed thinking was outrageously undeterred, despite a judge’s opinion that the best outcome in the case of FTC v. St. Luke’s Health System would be to allow hospitals and doctors to join together.

With the constant threat of new COVID-19 variants and the dire need for Americans to have better access to life-saving care, the FTC must not stand in the way of creating the most effective health care system possible and finally acknowledge that the world has changed and that hospitals need to change with it or fail.

• Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the editorial director for Reactionary Times and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by websites including Newsmax, Townhall, American Thinker and BizPacReview.


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