Bills Introduced To Protect Patients From Harmful Health Mergers

ABs 1091 & 1092 (Wood) will continue the fight to lower health care costs and protect access to care by increasing oversight on health care mergers and anti-competitive practices.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Assembly Health Committee Chair Jim Wood introduced two bills, both supported by Health Access California, to enhance oversight over health care mergers that may harm patient care, access, and result in higher costs. AB 1091 gives the state Attorney General oversight on for-profit hospital mergers to ensure they are in the best interest of the California public, building on three successful decades of patient protections for non-profit mergers. AB 1092 expands on AB 595 (Wood, Chapter 292, Statutes of 2018), requiring an entity that intends to merge with a health plan to give notice to, and secure prior approval from, the DMHC Director.

For decades, the California’s Attorney General has reviewed, held public hearings, imposed conditions, and approved nonprofit hospital mergers so that consumer impact could be measured and considered. AB 1091 extends that existing authority and process to for-profit hospitals, medical groups, and the other major health industry transactions.

“In health care, bigger isn’t always better. Hospitals are businesses and when they merge it can often mean cuts to services that aren’t deemed ‘profitable’ regardless of the needs of the community, including labor and delivery services, emergency services and more. We’re also seeing more and more religiously-affiliated health system mergers which can lead to restrictions in provisions of reproductive health care and gender-affirming care,” said Katie Van Deynze, Policy and Legislative Advocate for Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Someone has to have the patient’s back to protect access to these services. Expanding the Attorney General’s oversight will protect California health consumers and preserve access to quality, affordable, care.”

Research shows health care consolidation is one of the major drivers of increasing healthcare costs. Health prices in California have less to do with the cost of providing the care, the quality of care, or the health outcomes, than with the relative size and market power of health providers to be able to charge whatever they can.

“As Californians grapple with the rising cost of living, it’s easy to forget that health care prices have been skyrocketing for years, taking more and more from people’s paychecks, driven by major health care mergers,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of HealthAccess California. “AB 1091 will ensure that hospital and health industry mergers are subject to public hearings and Attorney General approval, to prevent inflated prices and loss of key services.”