“They can step in and help support institutions that may be in trouble,” said Dr. Bruce Siegel, CEO of the trade group America's Essential Hospitals. Siegel pointed to a recent acquisition in the West, where Phoenix-based Banner Health bought the University of Arizona Medical Center, a distressed academic system.
But, Siegel added, “Health plans and hospitals cannot use mergers as an excuse to shirk their social responsibility.”
Joe Fifer, CEO of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, said consolidation should not muddy the industry's aim right now, which is to improve clinical care and reduce costs to individual consumers, employers and government payers. “What is the ultimate cost to the purchaser? That's the issue,” he said. “All the other stuff is just noise behind the scenes.”
Federal antitrust regulators are putting more payer and provider deals under the microscope. The Federal Trade Commission challenged three major hospital deals in Illinois, Pennsylvania and West Virginia over the past four months. Although 72% of the surveyed healthcare leaders said they believe government scrutiny will grow regardless of who wins the White House, it won't deter executives from pursuing transactions they deem beneficial.
“The market forces, quite frankly, have been unleashed, and they are going to move regardless of what happens in the presidential election,” Jacobson said.