Professor Robert Field said the federal government is sending mixed signals on hospital mergers in an article published in the Washington Post on April 18.
The article cites a suit the Federal Trade Commission filed to block the purchase of a 43-physician practice group by St. Luke’s Health System in Boise, Idaho. The consolidation is among many mergers spawned by the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which encourages hospitals to consolidate with physician groups to lower health care costs and improve quality.
“The Affordable Care Act is pushing consolidation and working together, but the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department seem to be saying, ‘Wait a second, there are antitrust laws here,’” Field said. “The federal government has a schizophrenic attitude toward provider consolidation.”
An official with the FTC said the agency is concerned when collaborations give participants excessive power in the marketplace.
Field is a widely recognized expert on health law and policy. His book, "Mother of Invention: How the Government Created 'Free-Market' Health Care," was published in 2013 by Oxford University Press.