Physicians, Health Systems and the Drive For Market Dominance

Brian Klepper

Posted 5/23/13 on Medscape Connect’s Care & Cost Blog

BK 711Several physicians have reached out recently to discuss attractive employment offers from health systems. They are invariably conflicted. They understand the trade-offs, that they’ll give up the autonomy they’ve become accustomed to in exchange for more money and fewer practice management headaches. On the down side, they’ll be accountable for generating significant revenues, sometimes independent of care appropriateness.

Most also are aware that the same care services they provide now will be considerably more expensive once they’re part of a system. Many appreciate that because health systems are corporations with a heavy focus on optimizing short term gains, their future employer’s loyalty is suspect. And then there is the question of whether the health system’s management team is competently preparing to be sustainable in a market that could change dramatically.

As health systems maneuver to dominate regional markets, driving utilization and gaining more leverage over contractual pricing, physician employment has become their principal lever. Primary care physicians (PCPs) are now precious commodities that can manage populations and steer patients into the system’s services. Other specialties – e.g., cardiology, orthopedics, neurosurgery and even gynecologic oncology – are desirable if they’re high yield, driving lucrative, intensive use of inpatient and outpatient services.

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Making the Constitutional Argument

Paul Levy

Posted 1/14/12 on Not Running A Hospital

14 Jan 2012 05:30 AM PST

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has submitted an amicus brief in the pending Supreme Court case about the national health reform legislation.  The brief focused on the “individual mandate” portion of the law.  I think it is really well done and I copy the argument summary here:

Having enacted six years ago a prototype of the comprehensive healthcare reform package that Congress would later adopt in 2010, Massachusetts is in a unique position to assess the rationality of the assumptions that underlay both enactments. Specifically, the Court has held that the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. Congress properly exercised that power in adopting a provision in the ACA that requires all non-exempt persons to purchase at least a minimum level of health insurance coverage. Through its legislative findings, Congress rationally concluded that those who fail to purchase health insurance despite their ability to pay for it (“free riders”) not only drain finite State and federal free-care resources, but also negatively impact the availability of privately-issued health insurance policies and the prices at which such policies are sold. Congress further concluded that curtailing the practice of “free riding” would make private health insurance coverage easier for individuals both to procure and to afford.

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Twice-Told Tale

Paul Levy

First published on Not Running a Hospital

Back in 2008, Charlie Baker, then CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and I, then head of a hospital, claimed that the market power displayed by the dominant provider system in the state and supported by the state’s largest insurer resulted in a large disparity in health care payments. We argued that this disparity contributed to unnecessarily high health care costs in the state. We both did this publicly, willing to put our assertions to the test. The quotes in response to this in a Boston Globe story were notable, but they did little to undercut our premises.
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