As advocates, health care providers, and community members, we urge you to support the Keep Our Care Act, a bill that is essential to safeguard community access to quality affordable care.
Mergers and acquisitions between health care entities like hospitals and provider organizations have been shown to negatively impact cost, quality, and access to health care services. These health entity consolidations are prolific in Washington yet receive minimal oversight, allowing large health care systems to dictate patients’ access to care.
Research shows that health entity mergers and acquisitions drive up costs for patients and do not improve quality of care. Washington has firsthand experience: in 2017, Washington’s Attorney General sued CHI Franciscan for consolidations that he asserted resulted in raised prices, increased wait times, and reduced services and locations. Washington hospital data also show that large health systems rank poorly on quality measures, with satisfaction scores that are lower than independent hospitals.
Recent Washington health entity consolidations have restricted access to critical health care services. When Virginia Mason consolidated with CHI Franciscan, prohibitions were placed on medical aid in dying care and on abortion care. Similarly, when Swedish Health Services consolidated with Providence Health & Services, Swedish restricted the provision of abortion care. These discriminatory restrictions result in medically-unnecessary hurdles, harmful delays, and increased travel times.
Large health systems in our state are sitting on billions of dollars in cash reserves and investments and receive our taxpayer money but face little accountability to the communities they serve. Uninsured and underinsured individuals and rural communities that lack alternative care sites are disproportionately harmed when health systems do not prioritize community needs.
We urge you to support the Keep Our Care Act, which would establish:
- A prohibition on health entity consolidations that diminish access to affordable quality care;
- Attorney General oversight, compliance, and enforcement power to ensure health entity consolidations do not negatively impact access to health care services;
- A health equity assessment so that health entity consolidations address the needs of marginalized communities; and
- Community input through public notification of proposed consolidations and the opportunity for public hearings and comment.
Every Washingtonian deserves access to affordable, quality health care regardless of their identity, ZIP code, or medical needs.