The Yale-New Haven health system has applied for permission from the state to buy Waterbury, Manchester Memorial, and Rockville General hospitals. The state Office of Health Strategy is seeking community input through a short survey about how this deal could impact healthcare services and costs.
These three hospitals are currently owned by Prospect Medical Holdings, a private equity firm with a troubled history of leveraging hospitals with debt, extracting revenue, and starving hospitals for patient care resources.
However, if approved, this acquisition will make YNHH the state’s largest health system. Increased consolidation of healthcare systems has been linked to rising prices, without improvement in quality or access to care, and loss of consumer choice of options for care. YNHH has been tainted by scandals in the past, most recently by moving care for low-income New Haven residents out of neighborhoods and increasing patient costs for care to improve revenues.
If OHS chooses to approve the acquisition, they may impose conditions on the sale. Past conditions include prohibiting service delivery cuts (e.g., birthing centers) and limiting price increases on services. While these conditions have not been well-enforced by OHS in the past, the administration has proposed legislation this year to strengthen oversight. Most importantly, there is a proposal to ensure the independence of monitors who would determine if YNHH is honoring their commitments. Contrary to past OHS practice, if the legislation passes, monitors would be chosen by the state but paid for by YNHH.
While the acquisition is a choice between two unattractive options, meaningful, well-enforced conditions could improve the situation.