We already know that hospital mergers will definitely cost you more. But could it actually be worse for your health as well? The evidence from study after study is that hospital mergers decrease the quality of care, which means more readmissions, more bills, higher premiums, and yes, sadly, worse outcomes.
An series of studies has demonstrated that hospital competition literally saves lives. The authors of all of these studies looked at the UK health system, which notoriously has minimal competition, and examined outcomes when hospital competition was introduced. The results are staggering.
“we find that higher competition was associated with a faster decrease in 30-day [Acute myocardial infarction] mortality after the formal introduction of patient choice” offered one 2011 paper. This resulted in 300 fewer deaths per year than in an uncompetitive market.
Another study found that heart attack mortality dipped 10.7% when compared to markets without hospital competition.
Yet another found “a one standard deviation increase in the mortality rate leads to a 4.46 percent drop in market share for the average hospital.”
That is to say, when patients have a choice, they tend to go to the hospital that is less likely to result in their death.
Choice is good.
Rising healthcare costs are killing North Carolina's economy and this merger will make it worse.
And it isn’t just in England. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report found that “All of the U.S. studies except for one find that competition improves quality.”
One of the benefits touted by ECU and Vidant when they announced they intended to merge, was "together we can create a better way to deliver healthcare to even the most rural areas of eastern North Carolina." improved quality. Unless they have some secret plan that they won’t share with the rest of the hospital community, this is unlikely.
Higher prices are bad enough. This merger could be dangerous.