December 21, 2022 - HHS is releasing ownership data on all Medicare-certified hospitals in a bid to promote competition in a highly consolidated industry.
“At President Biden’s direction, this Administration puts consumers first – and we believe consumers deserve transparency,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a recent announcement. “At HHS, we continue taking unprecedented action to deliver on President Biden’s vision. We are pulling back the curtain and letting the sunshine in on hospital and nursing home ownership because it is what the public deserves.”
“As we work to expand access to high-quality, affordable [healthcare], we will make sure there is transparency to ensure that facilities are held accountable and people can make the best-informed decisions on their care.”
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Detailed information on the ownership of more than 7,000 hospitals will be available for the public to view on CMS’ website. The information includes enrollment information, such as organization name, type, practice location addresses (e.g., off campus), National Provider Identifier (NPI), CMS Certification Number (CCN); detailed information about each owner, such as whether it is an organization or an individual and whether it is a direct owner or indirect owner (that is, there is at least one subsidiary between it and the provider); and a numerical associate ID for each owner to enable linkage to the enrollment file.
Making hospital ownership data publicly available will benefit researchers, enforcement agencies, and patients, according to HHS.
Researchers and other agencies will be able to use the data to identify common owners that have had histories of poor performance, for example. The federal department also said the information could be used to analyze data and trends on how market consolidation impacts consumers with increased costs, without necessarily improving quality of care, and to evaluate the relationships between ownership and changes in healthcare costs and outcomes.
HHS also plans to analyze the data to inform policy approaches that promote competition in healthcare.
Healthcare is a heavily consolidated industry as more organizations combine to achieve economies of scale and tap into greater innovation. However, industry stakeholders have criticized healthcare consolidation, saying it leads to less competition and higher prices for consumers. Patients may also face fewer options for healthcare services in concentrated markets, thereby limiting access to affordable care for consumers.
The American Hospital Association (AHA), however, has stood its ground in asserting that mergers and acquisitions help reduce hospital costs.
In 2021, AHA updated its analysis of hospital transactions and found that mergers and acquisitions were associated with a 3.3 percent reduction in operating expenses between 2009 and 2019. Based on this figure, acquired hospitals could save $9.5 million each year.
Although, research has shown that these deals do not improve quality and may even make it worse in some communities.
HHS has committed to increasing transparency in healthcare in an effort to promote competition. With greater competition, the federal department hopes to reduce healthcare costs for consumers without impacting the quality of care they receive.
HHS also said releasing hospital ownership data will allow patients to make more informed choices when it comes to selecting a healthcare provider.
CMS is expected to update the data on a monthly basis and provide it in a searchable format on data.cms.gov. Hospital ownership data will also be available in a flat Excel file.