While economists question the economic benefits of big hospital mergers, given their tendency to raise costs, the counterargument is that such deals can keep hospitals from closing their doors altogether.
Since 2008, CarePoint Health — the for-profit hospital chain previously known as Hudson Hospital Holdco LLC — has acquired three financially troubled Hudson County care facilities — Bayonne Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital.
Sujoy Chakravarty, at the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, took the example of a financially troubled hospital being rescued by a for-profit chain.
"That is a gain for the community," he said. "After the takeover, there is increased consolidation in the area — but without the takeover, there would not be a hospital there."
David Knowlton, president of the Health Care Quality Institute of New Jersey, also is chairman of the board of St. Francis Medical Center, in Trenton, a so-called "safety-net" hospital that serves many low-income patients.
St. Francis is part of the 33-hospital Catholic Health East, one of the nation's largest hospital systems.
"Because we're an inner-city hospital, we rely on government payers" like Medicaid, which generally pay hospitals less than commercial health insurers. Knowlton said he's not sure the hospital would be able to thrive if not for the resources of its large parent.
"So I think there is no question that it (a large health care system) can be protective, in some circumstance(s)."
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