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Report cites poor oversight of hospital mergers


A report by Merger Watch finds that states tend to do a bad job of scrutinizing the potential effects of the giant hospital mergers sweeping America

ProPublica, in a joint story with Mother Jones, noted that the report  “found that only 10 states require government review before hospital facilities and services can be shut down. Only eight states and the District of Columbia mandate regulatory review when hospitals enter into more informal partnerships rather than full-scale mergers, closing a loophole that exists in other states for deals to pass with minimal state oversight.”

ProPublica/Mother Jones wrote: “Smaller, local hospitals often agree to merge with larger chains in order to survive. The goal is to cut overlapping services, negotiate better deals with insurance companies and share in the cost savings. But without state protections, local residents can see health services disappear, sometimes without a chance to weigh in.

“In a number of states, there is no oversight at all. So hospitals are just doing what makes business sense for them,” said Lois Uttley, one of the report’s co-authors and the director of MergerWatch, told ProPublica/Mother Jones. “Someone needs to be looking out for the patients and the community.”

Number of Catholic-linked hospitals rises 22%


MergerWatch reports that the number of Catholic-owned or -affiliated hospitals in the United States has grown 22 percent since 2001, and now 1 in 6 acute-care beds is in a hospital connected to the church.

So 14.5 percent of all  U.S. acute-care hospitals  are now either owned by or affiliated with the Catholic church.  The number of Catholic hospitals is more than 30 percent of the total in some states, MergerWatch says.

FierceHealthcare noted that some observers worry about the increase in Catholic-connected hospitals because they tend to follow directives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which, for example, bans contraception and of course abortion.

Other observers, of course, applaud what they see as the application of traditional morality and conscience to hospital rules.

“In general, Catholic hospitals provide excellent care,” Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch and one of the report’s authors told Reuters. “Our concern is with these restrictions with reproductive healthcare.”


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