After months of healthcare provider criticism over the proposed design of accountable care organizations, Republicans piled on today with charges that such groups will accelerate provider consolidation trends.
GOP lawmakers see ACOs speeding consolidation
Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said at a hearing on provider consolidation that the 2010 federal healthcare law's ACOs will allow participating providers to command higher private insurance rates regardless of their success at improving quality and lowering costs for Medicare.
Although healthcare experts testifying at the hearing generally agreed that provider consolidation is increasing, they differed over whether ACOs will exacerbate it.
“[I]integration among hospitals and doctors has the potential to be efficiency enhancing, but can also cause harm to competition, and can potentially make it more difficult for innovative organizations to enter markets,” Martin Gaynor, professor of public policy and management at Carnegie Mellon University, testified about ACOs.
Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, said he trusted the Obama administration's antitrust policies will “enhance market forces” in regard to ACOs.
“In addition to standard reviews of mergers and acquisitions, the Department of Justice and (Federal Trade Commission) are heavily involved in guiding rules for Medicare accountable care organizations to safeguard against increased provider leverage resulting from greater integration,” he said.
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