FTC antitrust investigations eye hospitals, PBMs and drug companies

The Federal Trade Commission is focusing its antitrust sights on the healthcare industry, primarily hospitals, drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers.

The agency on Thursday voted to prioritize investigations into healthcare, tech and digital platforms over the next decade and authorized the use of subpoenas and other “compulsory” methods to obtain information.

No further details were announced about specific companies it would investigate.

“Several of these industries are highly concentrated and there is widespread concern about unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive practices,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said during a commission meeting Thursday.

The FTC will focus on mergers, “repeat offenders,” harms related to the pandemic and against workers and small businesses, Khan said.

“This is particularly important given that we are in the midst of a massive merger boom,” she said.

Hospital systems have been criticized for their merger and acquisition practices, with more consolidations happening at a rapid pace in recent years, often creating dominant regional and national systems.

While hospital leaders argue mergers create efficiencies and safe money, several studies have shown it leads to higher prices for patients and payers.

The FTC in January said it would study the effects of physician group and healthcare facility consolidation that occurred from 2015 through 2020.

Hospitals have bought up many physician practices in recent years, with nearly 70% of the nation’s doctors now employed by hospitals or corporations.

Meanwhile, three PBMs control the majority of the market.

Source: modernhealthcare.com

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