April 2, 2018
By Robert Kuttner | Apr 06, 2018
Enough to Make You Sick: Walmart & Humana. So let’s see: The nation's largest retailer is trying to buy one of the biggest and most predatory insurance and hospital conglomerates, Humana. That would give the combined entity a staggering amount of market power, and reduce competition among insurance companies.
Supposedly, the proposed merger increases efficiency by providing more walk-in clinics, more cut-rate drugs, as well as pressure on hospitals to restrain costs and prices. But the efficiencies are bogus. Hospitals cross-subsidize expensive patients where they don’t fully recover costs with cheaper ones such as outpatient surgeries.
If Walmart skims off the profitable cases and also adds pressure to lower hospital charges, then hospitals are doubly squeezed.
It’s certainly true that network efficiencies are there to be reaped. But the right way to do it is with a single insurance pool. That’s known as national health insurance.
In the meantime, we need to dust off and enforce the antitrust laws. There’s no reason for this proposed deal other than to increase private profits skimmed by middlemen at the expense of care.