Private Equity’s Entry into Healthcare Reveals Gaps in Competition Policy

By Laura Alexander, Ola Abdelhadi, Brent Fulton, and Richard Scheffler | Published October 27, 2022 in the Competition Policy International (CPI) Antitrust Chronicle | Link to Full Article

The large and increasing amount of money under private equity (“PE”) management and the huge push by PE into healthcare, raises concerns and challenges for healthcare policy, but also for competition policy. Emerging evidence about the adverse impact of PE investment in healthcare on competition, prices, quality of care, and patient health is a serious concern. These troubling findings raise the question of how, if at all, antitrust law and antitrust enforcers should treat conduct and deals involving PE owners. While one of the virtues of the antitrust laws is their broad applicability, application of those laws to particular markets and companies is only effective when it is rooted in the realities of competition in those market and the competitive incentives that those companies face. PE’s impact on healthcare reveals significant gaps in the tools and methods for using the antitrust laws to protect competition. We conclude, however, that competition laws applicable only to PE are not generally needed; rather, when policymakers, regulators, and enforcers are applying competition laws to PE-owned companies, they need to take account of the unique incentives facing PE managers, the competitive implications of the PE ownership structure, and types of competition concerns that tend to arise surrounding PE deals. In markets that already face limited competition, such as healthcare, the incentives and ownership structures of PE may exacerbate existing competition concerns and anticompetitive impacts, potentially necessitating PE-specific policies.