Opinion: Health care is prime target of federal antitrust effort

June 23, 2022 – For years, corporate consolidations and mergers in the U.S. health care system have fueled rising health care prices and costs. Federal officials are now focused on more vigorous enforcement of antitrust law across society—with the health care industry a major focus, according to John McDonough of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a June 8, 2022 opinion piece for The Milbank Quarterly, McDonough, professor of the practice of public health, outlined Biden administration efforts to protect commerce from collusion and monopoly. In the health care arena, these efforts could help address problems such as high prescription drug costs or hospital consolidations, which have left many communities, particular rural ones, with inadequate or expensive health care options.

Public opinion is helping propel this new era of antitrust enforcement, as both health care workers and their patients have experienced the downside of mergers, McDonough wrote. Hospital employees have seen layoffs and losses of benefits; patients have seen longer wait times, reduced services, or billing runarounds. McDonough noted, “In 2010, the last time FTC officials revised their regulations regarding antitrust, they received 32 comments in toto. This time, as of mid-May, they received 5,825 public comments, with hundreds specifically relating to health care mergers and acquisitions.”

According to McDonough “it’s not just Democrats and progressives who are rattling these cages,” and he predicted that the antitrust enforcement effort “is not going away.”

Read The Milbank Quarterly article: Antitrust Enforcement in Health Care Is No Longer a Pipe Dream