Even as Americans newly insured under the Affordable Care Act struggle with narrow networks, the WSJ has found at least one clear winner from the ACA reform: hospitals. The newly insured are pouring into hospitals across the country, boosting the profits of some hospital chains by as much as 44 percent. More:
The hospital industry supported the 2010 law—which was expected to cost hospitals $155 billion in penalties and government pay cuts over a decade—on the promise that it would deliver a wave of new, paying patients. But hitches as the law rolled out, including a Supreme Court decision that allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion and a troubled launch of the marketplace websites, threw doubt on whether those gains would materialize.
Well, those hitches seem to have resolved themselves just fine. In the meantime, hospital consolidation continues to be a major factor keeping U.S. health care prices high. Obamacare supporters may have hoped that large chains would repay the U.S. for their new patients by lowering costs, but these benefits have yet to materialize.Essentially what the ACA did was dump a bunch of new customers into a highly dysfunctional system currently rigged to maximize the profits of big hospital chains. The marginal new access patients gained is in itself a good thing, but it does nothing to solve the long-term problems driving the U.S. into bankruptcy.Our best hope for lowering costs as well as improving quality is medical technology that allows care to be delivered more efficiently and cheaply. That, and not just simply expanding access, is where U.S. health care policy should look.