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Analysis

Insurance Consolidation May Soon Include Hospitals, Create Powerhouses

By Gregory A. Freeman  
   May 23, 2018

"Based on the millions of patient lives that both CVS-Caremark and Aetna manage, patients will be herded into their own locations to be treated by their own doctors/providers and the independent physician or practice will be significantly impacted. So in essence, both the patients and doctors who treat them will lose," Borzilleri says.

Returning to Classic Design

Hospital acquisition also could be driven by consumers, says Bill Shea, vice president  of Cognizant, a company providing digital, consulting, and other services to healthcare providers. As consumers select health services on demand, they will create their own systems of care instead of relying on a third party to do so, he says.

"The impact of these changes likely means integrated delivery systems must focus on providing on-demand healthcare and do so on a large scale. These systems can point to the proven value of offering a vetted and curated set of cost-effective providers and coordinating care to deliver better cost and quality outcomes," Shea says.   

Health plans also may consider returning to their pre-managed care origins to purse a classic insurance model of benefit design, risk management, and underwriting, he says. Some organizations could become a one-stop shop for every insurance need.

"These diversified insurance players will have the economies of scale to better manage profit and loss across multiple lines of business and to take creative approaches to health-related insurance, such as offering personalized policies targeted to specific market segments," Shea says.

More State, Regional Moves

Consolidation is likely to increase at the state and regional level, says Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform.

"As providers with market dominance command higher prices, insurers will need to amass greater market power to push back. This means fewer choices of insurers for employers, other healthcare purchasers and consumers," Delbanco says.

She says, "Fewer choices means less competition and less pressure to innovate. It’s possible we’ll see more of the integrated delivery systems and accountable care organizations beginning to offer insurance products where state laws and regulations allow them to as new entrants into the market."

Those changes will make it more and more difficult to thrive as a small insurer or a small provider, she says.

Also, while rising prices and a continuation of uneven quality will motivate employers and other healthcare purchasers to demand greater transparency into provider performance and prices, larger players may more easily resist that call, she says.

"Increasingly it will be a seller’s game, not a buyer’s," Delbanco says. "While quality measurement, provider payment reforms, and healthcare delivery reforms increasingly move toward putting the patient at the center, this may be more lip service than reality. Even if consumers end up with more information to make smarter decisions, their options may have dwindled to ones that are largely unaffordable."

Gregory A. Freeman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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