When healthcare meets private equity; what can possibly go wrong? Ask the F.T.C..

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The NY Times recently reported the Federal Trade Commission (F.T.C.) was going after a private equity-backed anesthesia group that has been consolidating and dominating local markets with Wall Street money. A close friend of mine has described what happened in his group, first at Barnabus, and then during the pandemic at JFK hospitals when private equity purchased these groups. Doctors like him were being replaced with nurse anesthesthetists (not necessarily bad for patients) as they attempted to do things to improve their profits and he was, as a full-timer told to walk longer hours and take call on the weekend, meaning he would work more weekends. He was then told not only to do his job but now he had to take on the liability of observing and overseeing nurses too.  He eventually figured out that now, as they developed a shortage of anesthesiologists, doctors working part-time were being paid more and had no weekend work. He recently decided to work part-time as this was better for him, something I cannot blame him for doing. In every instance of private equity ownership, while certain protocols were better adhered to, the business model cost us consumers more for the sake of healthcare profits instead of the public reaping the savings from a model that had saved money by using nurse anesthetists.   Also, if you have visited any of the big healthcare systems lately, care is not personal and patients are commoditized. As with many of the agencies in charge of making sure monopolies do not crowd out smaller businesses that provide needed competition, they are now more willing and equipped to investigate these practices.   Too little too late perhaps as we see regulators looking into companies such as Amazon, which has destroyed many businesses and has been harming many of the retailers who sell through Amazon with higher costs related to selling through them resulting in less profits for the companies but hither profits for Amazon. Meanwhile, the large systems have gotten larger thanks to allowing tiered plans such as Omnia that forced smaller hospitals to join large systems and put financial pressure on doctor groups to also be sold or join these systems for their own financial viability.    The result is, that we are all paying more due to insurance, hospital, and medical office consolidation. Check out the article from the NY Times below

F.T.C. Sues Anesthesia Group Backed by Private-Equity Firm

The federal agency claims the company’s practices amount to antitrust activity, a new salvo in the government’s scrutiny of health care consolidation that has led to higher prices.

By Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz Sept. 21, 2023 After vowing to tackle consolidation in the health care industry, the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust lawsuit on Thursday that challenged the growing practice of private-equity firms backing companies that amass medical practices and dominate local markets. The suit targeted a large doctors’ group that operates anesthesia practices in several states, claiming the group and the private equity firm advising and financing it were consolidating doctors’ groups in Texas so they could raise prices and increase their profits. The agency brought the civil lawsuit in federal court against U.S. Anesthesia Partners and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a private-equity firm in New York. Read more