Alyssa Birchfield

Consolidation of Hospitals During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Government Bailouts and Private Equity

By Richard M. Scheffler and Laura M. Alexander | Published July 20, 2021 in The Milbank Quarterly | Link to Full Article

On May 19, 2021, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the US Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, held a hearing on hospital consolidation and the subsequent increase in hospital prices observed across the U.S. Most hospital markets meet the FTC/DOJ guidelines definition of being highly concentrated and, as a result, are not likely to exhibit competitive levels of prices, quality, or innovation. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic is shaping the financial outlooks of large and small hospital systems in a manner that is expected to further fuel this consolidation trend. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, private equity funds are sitting on enormous stores of “dry powder,” money they have amassed from investors and are required to spend or return within the next several years. Widespread expectations are that much of that dry powder will be deployed in health care, ultimately leading to vertical integration.

The article explores the harmful effects of post-COVID-19 consolidation through private equity in the healthcare space, emphasizing the damaging effects on local health care markets.

Modern Healthcare features Richard Scheffler in Article on Blue Cross NC Independent Physician Initiative

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has partnered with investment firm Deerfield Management Company in a joint venture aimed at helping independent physicians grow and strengthen their practices. The company will offer management infrastructure, technology support and marketplace information. Modern Healthcare sought comments from Dr. Richard Scheffler on the effects of this joint venture on independent physician practices, with Scheffler noting that this could help these physicians “ease the difficulty of managing their own small practice in today’s healthcare environment.”

Read the full article and all of Dr. Scheffler’s insights here.

Modern Healthcare Interviews Richard Scheffler Regarding Growing Private Equity Investment in Healthcare

Modern Healthcare interviewed Richard Scheffler for an article discussing the growing trend of private equity investment in the healthcare sector. They also cite his recent report on the topic. The interview took place after the noteworthy buyout of medical supply company Medline by a trio of private equity firms—Blackstone Group, Carlyle and Hellman & Friedman. As Dr. Scheffler puts it, this may be “the start of an explosion of private equity deals in healthcare.”

Read the full article here.

U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights Cites Petris Center’s Richard Scheffler, Private Equity Report

The Petris Center and American Antitrust Institute (AAI)’s joint report on rising private equity investment in the healthcare industry was cited during the May 19 hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights as part of the discussion about hospital consolidation and competition. The Petris Center’s Richard Scheffler and AAI’s Laura Alexander were recognized by name as the authors of this report.

Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) expressed concern over the impact of private equity investment on hospital consolidation and quality of patient care. He asked witness Professor Martin S. Gaynor of Carnegie Mellon University for his assessment of the role of hospital debt burden in necessitating hospital closures or mergers. Professor Gaynor then cited Richard Scheffler and Laura Alexander’s recent private equity report, noting that there is significant concern about private equity activity leading to consolidation and potentially diminishing quality of care due to misaligned incentives between private equity investors and patients and physicians.

Hear Senator Blumenthal and Professor Gaynor’s discussion of hospital consolidation and the private equity report during the May 19 hearing, beginning at about 1:25.

Soaring Private Equity Investment in the Healthcare Sector: Consolidation Accelerated, Competition Undermined, and Patients at Risk

By Richard M. Scheffler, Laura M. Alexander, and James R. Godwin. | Published May 18, 2021 | Press Release | Link to Full Report

A decade’s worth of evidence supports troubling findings that private equity business practices have a negative impact on competition in healthcare and on patients. A new white paper, produced by experts at UC Berkeley and the American Antitrust Institute (AAI), calls for immediate attention to the role that private equity investment plays in harming patients and impairing the functioning of the healthcare industry. In this groundbreaking new white paper, Soaring Private Equity Investment in the Healthcare Sector: Consolidation Accelerated, Competition Undermined, and Patients at Risk, AAI’s Laura Alexander and Professor Richard Scheffler of The Nicholas C. Petris Center on Health Care Markets and Consumer Welfare in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley detail the emerging threat posed by private equity investment in healthcare markets.

The report details and measures private equity trends for the overall healthcare sector and provides a deep dive into four particular areas: hospitals and inpatient services, clinics and outpatient services, elderly and disabled care, and pharmaceuticals. However, the data do not tell the complete story. Several concerns are analyzed by presenting case studies of private equity involvement in healthcare and reporting evidence on the impact private equity investment has had on health and quality. Drawing on these data and examples, the major threats and risks to competition posed by the injection of private equity business practices into healthcare markets are identified and analyzed. The report summarizes what state and federal legislators have done to address the financial impacts of such behavior and presents suggested actions and potential policy solutions.