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Hospital mergers in Colorado

A sign points towards the entrance to St Thomas' Hospital on October 13, 2011 in London, England.

Steve Chiotakis: President Obama travels to Colorado today, campaigning for his jobs bill -- and for re-election. The president's taken a lot of flack on his health care law from potential challengers on the GOP side -- a law that's helped drive some big hospital mergers across the country.

From Colorado Public Radio, Eric Whitney reports.


Eric Whitney: This year is on track to be the biggest year ever for hospital mergers and acquisitions nationwide. In Denver, hospital giant HCA just bought out its junior partner in a $1.5 billion transaction. Two more deals involving at least six more hospitals statewide are in the works.

Steven Summer is head of the Colorado Hospital Association. He says the mergers should mean better, cheaper care for patients.

Steven Summer: If you can consolidate and get economies of scale, it's shown to be much more effective.

Translation: it's cheaper for one administration to run several hospitals than them all running themselves.

The federal health reform law also aims to squeeze more efficiency. It changes the way hospitals and doctors get paid. Its goal is to keep people healthy, and only do procedures that are absolutely necessary, instead of maximizing the number of tests.

Again, Steven Summer.

Summer: I think we're going to see that if the payment system that's in the affordable care act is allowed to be implemented.

The congressional super committee is looking at chopping some of the health care law's payment incentives. Then there's the expected Supreme Court case on the law's constitutionality. Experts say those uncertainties are actually slowing the hospital merger trend.

In Denver, I'm Eric Whitney for Marketplace.

About the author

Eric Whitney is a health reporter for Colorado Public Radio.

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