Modern Healthcare reports that the US Department of Justice is suing North Carolina’s healthcare system, saying it illegally imposes contract requirements on insurers that reduce competition. Further, the DOJ claims the system also forbids insurers from offering narrow networks that include only its competitors, in violation of antitrust law.
My take: the hospitals are only doing what the insurance companies have been doing to all providers, including the hospitals, for a very long time. Now, the hospitals have gotten so big, market by market, that the tables have turned and the big insurance companies are starting to complain that it's now happening to them. The only real answer to this Godzilla vs. King Kong fight (where all the people get stepped on) is for the government to set prices – just like it does for Medicare, Medicaid and the VA.
Healthcare will never be the same as other free market services and products. Let's stop pretending that this is really possible. What do I mean by this? Well, in a free market, if somebody lowers their price for an apple I might buy two apples or three or even stock up and can them if the price is so good. But in healthcare, I'll never buy two appendix surgeries, or have an extra baby because someone lowers the price. Similarly, I would never forego cancer treatment for my child because costs are too high... so it’s silly to compare healthcare pricing to a free market.
Setting uniform transparent pricing is the only answer, but the insurance/hospital/drug company House of Cards is held together with the glue of non-transparency and overpaying.
Lots of people are going to get hurt when the glue shakes loose. Healthcare is 10% of our GDP.... yikes.