The American Hospital Association has released a study rebutting BlueCross and BlueShield Association research that hospital mergers are a key driver of rising healthcare costs.
The AHA report, released Tuesday, comes at a time of heightened federal scrutiny. Several months ago, the Federal Trade Commission announced it would re-examine past hospital mergers to make sure they had not occurred simply to set prices.
The Blues study, released in October, said a 1% increase in hospital market share from consolidation leads to a 2% increase in inpatient expenditures.
But the AHA report, prepared by economist Margaret Guerin-Calvert and Economists Inc. in Washington, D.C., concludes that the pace of hospital mergers has actually fallen since 1999 and that "only a small fraction of hospital mergers have raised competitive issues."
It also found that increased expenses, rather than increased revenues, have driven spending on hospital services.
AHA adds that a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study shows that the primary drivers of spending for hospital care are increased utilization and higher labor costs from shortages for nurses and other hospital workers.