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Non-COVID-19 Focused Scrutiny of Hospitals Resumes

Sunday’s 60 Minutes was a reminder that there are a lot of issues that have been put on the back burner during COVID-19 that will quickly resurface as we emerge from the pandemic.

The piece centered on Sutter Health and its acquisition practices that have led to significant increases in costs. It featured an interview from earlier this year with Xavier Becerra, the California Attorney General, and President-elect Biden’s HHS Secretary Nominee, who led the recent settlement with Sutter Health. He detailed his concerns with growing consolidation in healthcare and the impact on patients - especially when it comes to the cost of care. And, Becerra is not the only AG who has been more actives in M&A among providers. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro challenged the Jefferson and Albert Einstein merger and we see AGs active on the health plan side, too.

With M&A activity expected to continue and likely even accelerate in 2021, it will be important for communicators heading into one of these deals to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Have a strategy for elected officials, especially state Attorneys General as part of your plan. You can’t wait until the deal is getting close, you need to start building relationships and highlighting the work you’re doing now, so when it comes time, there won’t be any questions about the value you bring to your communities.
  2. Be able to clearly articulate the value of the merger to patients and employers. Statements about M&A leading to “better, more efficient care” just won’t cut it anymore. You have to show proof, data, and outcomes about how patients, employers, and the community will see the cost savings associated with the combined entities. Quality care is table stakes now, and you have to do better than talking in generalities.  
  3. Closely watch legislation in state houses, as more and more are considering legislation to provide oversight for state AGs to approve health care M&A deals.

 

December 18, 2020
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