Economy

Hospital operators in merger talks to create U.S. industry leader

Hospital operators in merger talks to create U.S. industry leader

Hospital operators Ascension Health, whose hospitals include St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, and Providence St. Joseph Health are reportedly in talks about merging to create the largest US hospital chain. Now the largest USA hospital operator is the for-profit Hospital Corp. of America, based in Nashville, which posted about $41.5 billion in revenues previous year.

Close to 60% of the hospitals in the US are private nonprofits, which is a status exempting them from some taxes in exchange for them providing benefits to the community such as free care to patients with low-income.

The two have been in talks about a deal for months but have not reached an agreement, the Journal reported. The remaining 40% of hospitals in the US are for-profits or government-owned.

A merger remains consistent with the broader trend of mega-mergers in healthcare, although it has seen some problems along the way.

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Last week, two massive mergers formed three days apart: UnitedHealth Group announced the acquisition of DaVita Medical Group, a physician and clinic network, for $4.9 billion on Wednesday.

On Thursday, another major hospital merger was announced between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, both also among the top ten hospital networks in the country. Larger scale also aids in hospital systems ability to negotiate better pricing with insurers.

Critics of such a deal say it could raise prices and limit patient choice. "That would dethrone the nation's largest pure hospital operator, HCA Healthcare Inc., which owns 177 hospitals and ended 2016 with $41.5 billion in revenue".

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