The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Hospital Consolidations Continue in Michigan

Jan 1, 2024

Henry Ford Health and Ascension Michigan recently announced their plan for a “joint venture,” allowing Henry Ford to take control of eight Ascension hospitals in Southeast Michigan.

The plan still has to pass an antitrust review by Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Federal Trade Commission, but if it does, the combined system would control nearly 44% of the Southeast Michigan hospital market and 19% of the state market.

Less than two years ago, Nessel and the FTC had no problem approving the merger of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, to become Corewell Health. Later that year, they allowed University of Michigan Health and Sparrow Health to merge. Assuming the Henry Ford-Ascension deal goes through, the three systems would control 59% of the state’s hospital market.

When the top executives of huge hospital chains announce mergers like these, they like to assure everyone that they will lower health care costs, because they will be able to negotiate lower prices for supplies. Somehow, that never seems to come to fruition, because reduced competition allows these big conglomerates to charge more for their services.

More importantly, when hospital chains consolidate, they close facilities. Since 1988, almost 1,900 hospital systems have merged and—wait for it—2,000 hospitals have closed! In 1988, there were 8,000 hospitals in the U.S. and now there are only 6,000, a 25% drop.

"Residents of urban neighborhoods of color and rural areas have suffered a lot as independent hospitals have closed or joined big health systems. Acquiring systems often move to close services like intensive care, labor and delivery, psychiatric care, and cardiac surgery. It forces people to travel out of their communities and poses really serious navigation issues for patients, especially those who are disabled, elderly, non-English speaking, and without their own cars," says Lois Uttley, a former advisor at the Hospital Equity and Accountability Project.

No wonder the U.S. spends twice as much on healthcare as any other developed country for the same amount of care yet ranks 43rd in the world for life expectancy! And it’s the working class and the poor who suffer the most.

While some of these hospital systems are still called “non-profit,” they channel profits to other companies and financial interests. It’s a system that puts profits before people.