Healthcare should be a sanctuary, not a hunting ground for profit. Yet, a predator stalks our hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes: private equity. These financial wolves see healthcare not as a service but as a gold mine ripe for exploitation. Their entry into the medical field poses a grave danger to patients, communities, and the very fabric of our healthcare system.
The rate of serious medical complications increased in hospitals after they were purchased by private equity investment firms, according to a significant study of the effects of such acquisitions on patient care in recent years.
The study, published in JAMA on Tuesday, found that three years after a private equity fund bought a hospital, adverse events, including surgical infections and bed sores, rose by 25 percent among Medicare patients compared to similar hospitals that such investors did not buy. The researchers reported a nearly 38 percent increase in central line infections, a dangerous kind of infection that medical authorities say should never happen, and a 27 percent increase in falls by patients while staying in the hospital.
Here’s why private equity’s bite is worse than its bark:
1. Profits Before Patients: Unlike non-profit hospitals committed to community health, private equity firms prioritize shareholder returns above all else. This can lead to:
- Cost-cutting measures that endanger care: Staff reductions, cheaper equipment, and skimping on essential services. These cuts, while padding profits, can compromise patient safety and outcomes.
- Upselling and unnecessary procedures: Pressure on healthcare providers to boost revenue through unnecessary tests, procedures, and medication. This can drain patients’ pockets and expose them to unnecessary risks.
- Neglect of critical services: Abandonment of unprofitable but essential services like rural hospitals, mental health facilities, and senior care, leaving vulnerable populations underserved.
2. Hidden Hazards and Lack of Transparency: Private equity firms operate in a shroud of secrecy. Their complex acquisitions and opaque financial maneuvers make tracking their impact on patient care and community well-being difficult. This lack of transparency breeds distrust and hinders accountability.
3. Surprise Bill Blitzkrieg: Private equity-owned hospitals and facilities are notorious for generating astronomical surprise bills. They exploit loopholes in insurance networks and charge exorbitant out-of-network fees, leaving patients crippled by debt for primary care.
4. Predatory Practices and Market Manipulation: Private equity firms can use their financial muscle to:
- Drive out competitors: Merging and acquiring smaller healthcare providers, creating monopolies that limit patient choice and drive up prices.
- Exploit market inefficiencies: Using fragmented healthcare systems and weak regulations to extract maximum profits at the expense of patient access and quality care.
The Impact is Real, the Costs are Deep: The consequences of private equity’s incursion into healthcare are far-reaching:
- Increased patient harm: Studies have linked private equity ownership to higher rates of medical errors, infections, and preventable deaths.
- Financial hardship: Surprise bills and rising healthcare costs burden patients and families, exacerbating healthcare inequality.
- Community erosion: Hospitals and essential services closures leave entire communities vulnerable and without access to adequate care.
Protecting Our Health, Protecting Our Future: We must not let private equity turn healthcare into a game of chance where profits trump well-being. We need:
- Stronger regulations: Increased transparency, stricter oversight of private equity activities in healthcare, and robust patient protections.
- Investing in non-profit care: Supporting and strengthening the non-profit sector, the bedrock of a patient-centered healthcare system.
- Public awareness and advocacy: Raising awareness about the dangers of private equity in healthcare and empowering patients to demand a system prioritizing their health over profits.
Healthcare is not a commodity; it’s a fundamental human right. We must resist the siren song of privatization and fight to ensure that healthcare serves the sick, not the rich. Let’s reclaim our healthcare from the clutches of profiteers and build a system that prioritizes health, well-being, and the common good.
Share this post, raise your voice, and join the fight to keep healthcare out of the hands of predators. Our health and our future depend on it.