Hospitals So Far Escape Blame in Health Care Debate

That might change as experts continue to point out that hospitals—even more than insurers or drug companies—are the main reason costs are soaring.

There was a no-show at the Democratic debates this week: The issue that hospitals are the main contributor to rising health care costs. As Axios reports this morning, even though Democratic candidates sparred about what to do about health care in their two nights of debates (Medicare for all versus a stronger ACA), no one mentioned hospitals.

Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt tells Axios that “policy issues generally require a villain, and I’m not sure hospitals make a good villain for Democrats. In recent years, especially around the ACA and efforts to protect it from repeal, Democrats and hospitals have been allies.”

Public scrutiny hasn’t turned fully on hospitals’ role in costs, either. People don’t go to the hospital that often and they like the idea of having one nearby. But there are signs that the hospital lobby will soon feel the heat.​The Trump administration wants to force hospitals to disclose the prices they’ve negotiated with health plans, a move the hospital industry hates..

In addition, those surprise bills that have enraged so many and garnered headlines over the last few years? They mostly come from hospitals. Congress shows signs of stepping in to end those bills but, again, the hospital lobby is fighting hard to keep that from happening.

In addition, as Axios reports, “federal payment cuts to hospitals are set to take effect this fall, and Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley has hinted that he wants to ensure at least some of those cuts will really happen.”

We’ll see how this plays out.