In 2017, two rival hospitals merged in Bristol, Tennessee and promised not to price gouge or cut corners. The result – ICU closures and dwindling care for about 1.1 million residents in a 29-county region at the nexus of Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.
Now, Ballad Health is the only hospital system in the area – a complete lack of competition. Unfortunately, this is all too common, as hospitals have been engaged in anti-competitive and other harmful practices that are driving up costs for patients and employers.
Ballad has also not fulfilled its annual charity care obligation, falling short by about $148 million over a four-year span. In those same years, Ballad took thousands of patients to court to collect unpaid bills.
Medical debt plagues about 23 million Americans,
with the average bill being over $1,000.
Hospital monopolies and consolidation harms communities like these where there aren’t other options for care. The residents in this area deserve better – which is why Better Solutions is fighting for less hospital consolidation and more transparency in healthcare pricing.
The momentum for reform is real – already, six House and Senate committees have conducted a combined eleven hearings and markups scrutinizing hospitals’ anti-competitive practices. To boot, a bipartisan bill awaits floor action in the House, which might be why hospitals are pushing the panic button lately.