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Health Serv Manage Res. 2000 Aug;13(3):137-51.

Horizontal mergers in the United States health field: some practical realities.

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Bedford Health Associates, Inc., Asheville, NC 28804, USA.


During the past decade, 'merger mania' has been a striking trend in the US health field as a strategy to improve the integration of services, to reduce expenses, and to increase the ability of providers to manage risk-based payment. However, during the past quarter of a century limited operational and fiscal evidence has been published in both the health and general management literature that strongly supports the efficacy of horizontal mergers. This article further argues that a likely scenario over the next decade, in spite of disappointments among these mergers in effecting significant cost reductions, is for the US health networks to continue acquiring additional providers and insurers. After these alliances gain significant market penetration, they are expected to behave as oligopolists. For these mergers to eventually achieve their earlier projected savings, the health field's leadership will be forced to implement cost-cutting measures such as: more vigorously coordinating the network's key clinical services to reduce competition for revenues among the partners within an alliance, closing superfluous hospitals and centralizing expensive tertiary services, encouraging surplus physicians to relocate to under-served areas, and providing direction to carefully integrate the best elements of what the competitive and regulatory strategies are able to offer to improve access, social equity, quality of care, and to reduce total health expenditures.

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