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Major Atrium Health deal will double size of hospital system, as it expands to Midwest

Hannah Smoot, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Health & Fitness

The deal is staggering in its size and reach, said hospital consolidation critic and Duke Law School professor Barak Richman.

“This does not point to a new frontier of competition,” Richman told the Observer Wednesday. “It points to a new scale of lack of competition. A new scale of monopoly power.”

A consolidation deal of this size could mean higher prices, suppressed wages for nurses and physicians and more expensive national insurance plans, Richman said, calling the combination “very, very alarming.”

“I don’t understand how you can say owning a bunch of hospitals (across the country), how you can serve people in North Carolina better,” he said.

But Atrium said the new combination will create more jobs and opportunities for innovation.

Together, the combined system has nearly 150,000 employees, according to Atrium. The organizations pledged to create more than 20,000 jobs across the communities served, but they did not detail specifics on how to achieve that.

 

In response to hospital consolidation concerns, Woods said he believes Atrium and Advocate Aurora have track records of driving savings based on making the systems more efficient. And he wants to work to enhance partnerships with insurance companies to better serve patients.

“An argument out there that some folks make about size is: ‘big is bad,’ ” Skogsbergh said in a Tuesday interview with the Observer. “We frankly don’t believe that. We think bad is bad. We think inefficient is bad. We think ineffective is bad. But we think if we do this right, we’re going to get stronger and patients are going to benefit from it.”

The strategic combination with Advocate Aurora Health is Atrium Health’s first foray into the Midwest.

“One of the things we have learned through COVID, is that the digital world and telehealth has no state boundaries,” Woods said Tuesday. “We’re looking to create a national system so we can serve communities better.”

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