delong178_Mark Wilson_Getty Images_ACA protest Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Beating America’s Health-Care Monopolists

In 2015, the largest private US health-insurers began exploring the possibility of mergers that would reduce the number of national providers from five to three and allow them to squeeze more profits from consumers. After a massive industry lobbying effort almost pushed the plan through, consumer groups are fighting back.

BERKELEY – The United States’ Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health-care reform, has significantly increased the need for effective antitrust enforcement in health-insurance markets. Despite recent good news on this front, the odds remain stacked against consumers.

As Berkeley economics professor Aaron Edlin has pointed out, consumer abstention is the ultimate competitor. Companies cannot purchase or contrive a solution to consumers who say, “I’m just not going to buy this.” But the ACA requires individuals to purchase health insurance, thus creating a vertical demand curve for potential monopolists. Under these conditions, profits – and consumer abuse – can be maximized through collusion.

It is not surprising, then, that in 2015 some of the largest private American health-insurance companies – Anthem, Cigna, Aetna, and Humana – began exploring the possibility of merging. If they could reduce the number of national insurers from five to three, they could then increase their market power and squeeze more profits from consumers.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/KdJQyOc;
  1. haass102_ATTAKENAREAFPGettyImages_iranianleaderimagebehindmissiles Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

    Taking on Tehran

    Richard N. Haass

    Forty years after the revolution that ousted the Shah, Iran’s unique political-religious system and government appears strong enough to withstand US pressure and to ride out the country's current economic difficulties. So how should the US minimize the risks to the region posed by the regime?

  2. frankel100_SpencerPlattGettyImages_mansitswithumbrellawallstreet Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    The US Recovery Turns Ten

    Jeffrey Frankel

    The best explanation for the current ten-year US economic expansion – tied for the longest since 1854 – is disappointingly simple: the Great Recession was the worst downturn since the 1930s. And if the dates of American business cycles were determined by the rule that most other countries apply, the current expansion would be far from beating the record.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.