"However, despite these activities hospitals' price growth is at a historic low and is not the main driver of higher health insurance premiums," Pozen said.
"The growth in health insurance premiums from 2010-2011 was more than double that of the underlying health costs, including the costs of hospital services. The antitrust authorities should continue to pay as much attention to the health insurance industry as it does to the hospital field and there is no question that the health insurance industry is highly concentrated and is now acquiring hospitals and providers in an effort to replicate the continuum that hospitals are now providing."
AHIP lobbyist Joseph Miller cited several studies showing that hospital consolidations mean higher costs for consumers. He called on the federal government to continue to review hospital mergers that have the potential to harm consumers by consolidating market power and diminishing competition.
"Through the ACA implementation process, AHIP has emphasized that affordability must be a central goal in health reform and that addressing provider market issues is an important part of achieving this goal," Miller said. "Promoting competition and halting harmful consolidation in provider markets are critically important steps toward increasing affordability."
The back-and-forth between the representatives of AHIP and AHA prompted another panelist, Duke University Law professor Barak D. Richman, to note that "both providers and insurers alike seek to exploit different loopholes in the reimbursement system."