This week, health care consumers throughout California have the opportunity to attend public hearings to voice their concerns about the proposed merger between two large Catholic health systems, St. Joseph Health System based in CA and Providence Health and Services, a WA based system. This merger will impact hospitals from each system across seven states, but in many of those states there is no formalized government oversight of hospital mergers, and thus no way to be certain that health care access will be maintained or that prices will be kept in check.
California’s unique Attorney General review process allows for these public hearings which will be held right in the communities where the hospitals are located so that people who may be impacted can attend.
The ability for health care consumers to voice concerns about the impact of hospital mergers is not available in many places. Hospitals can merge, close, or reduce certain services without anyone looking out for the communities that rely on those services.
MergerWatch conducted a national study (to be released at the end of this month) that outlines the limits of state oversight, specifically in the form of Certificate of Need (CON) of hospital transactions across the country. Only 33 states have oversight of hospital mergers in the form of Certificate of Need, but even these states do not have the robust policies necessary to protect access to necessary health care. Community input in the form of public hearings when hospital merge is just one type of policy that is severely lacking in many places. In many states the CON policies that exist do not even require oversight of certain types of transactions that can greatly reduce access to healthcare, such as the closure of a hospital service line, or the consolidation of two hospitals that will move one service line many miles away.
The forthcoming MergerWatch report will detail this lack of oversight around the country so that health care advocates can learn how to get engaged and push for more robust Certificate of Need policies that can be used to preserve access to health care in their state. Please check back soon for the release of this report!