Health mergers are expensive


To the editor:

In recent weeks, journalists who focus on health care have discussed the problems resulting from mergers and consolidation of insurance companies and hospitals.

The pace of these mergers has increased as insurance companies compete for market share in order to increase their leverage in negotiations over prices with hospitals. The hospitals, in turn, merge and consolidate to increase their leverage with insurance companies when negotiating prices.

As prices rise in an unproductive spiral, the patient and the taxpayer suffer.

Big hospital systems consolidate their services to a central location and close less profitable hospitals located in poorer communities, as happened to St. Vincent’s in Manhattan, and is happening to Downstate and Beth Israel in Brooklyn now.

Profit is the motive, not patient care. The potential for disaster is dramatically illustrated in the cyber attack against Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth.

Change Healthcare processes the billing for UnitedHealth, whose profits rose from $779 million in 2014 to $4.1 billion last year as reported in Healthcare Un-covered by Wendell Potter on Substack.

“As a result, the ability of tens of thousands of clinicians to submit claims to insurance dried up and with it our cash flow. Do you think the hackers would have gone after UnitedHealth subsidiary Change Healthcare if it wasn’t part of one of the biggest corporations on the planet and one with very deep pockets? I doubt it.”

All hospitals in New York state are incorporated as non-profit entities, but no longer operate as non-profit entities. The money they don’t pay in taxes is supposed to be spent for health care in the communities they service.

It is time for more aggressive oversight at both the state and federal level.

Helen Meltzer-Krim

Helen Meltzer-Krim