Are hospital leaders the culprits for rising healthcare costs?

Are America's hospitals the villains in the ongoing war against healthcare costs?

Reihan Salam seems to think so. He posts in a recent issue of Slate that hospital business practices drive up costs and that politicians regularly close ranks to protect their interests.

"Politicians are so quick to bash insurers while catering to the powerful hospital systems, which dictate terms to insurers and have mastered the art of gaming Medicare and Medicaid to their advantage," wrote Salam, who serves as the executive editor of the National Review. He noted that a hospital stay in the U.S. costs three times as much as other developed countries.

As a result of this trend, Salam predicts that it will lead to another trend over the next quarter century: Hospital spending will "gobble up taxpayer dollars that might otherwise have gone to giving poor people more cash assistance, welfare-to-work programs, and Pell grants; fixing potholes; sending missions to Mars; and who knows what else." That prediction is based on an assumption that other govenment spending will not increase between now and 2039.

Healthcare delivery in the U.S. has long been defined by ever-rising costs without comparable outcomes, although portions of the Affordable Care Act were fashioned to address such trends. And some specific forms of treatment, such as colonoscopies, were tailored specifically to maximize revenue and profit.

But Salam noted other factors, such as continued mergers and acquisitions, that will likely stifle competition and keep prices high. He suggested that the federal government use anti-trust laws to keep the financial clout in the hospital sector in check.

To learn more:
- read the Slate article