ACOs have zealously protected their favored status under Medicare Value-Based payment models, ensuring enough time for organizations to feel comfortable with financial risk and make investments in infrastructure. But if your own ACO is losing physicians to new equity-financed networks or to hospitals consolidating practices, more time does not help you. Primary care physicians are being picked off by your competition, and their patients go with them.
Private equity firms and venture capital-funded groups have gained significant ground in acquiring physician practices, with mergers and acquisitions hitting record highs in 2019 and 2020, and accelerating in 2021. Equity firms and health insurers now own almost one-third of physician practices, and 70 percent of physicians are employed by hospital systems and corporate entities including private equity firms and insurance companies.
Consolidation of practices through hospital and private company acquisitions is decreasing the number of small practices and increasing larger practices and networks, conferring market power and better negotiating leverage for new owners with payers and employers. It is also driving increased costs in the industry. The Biden administration recently announced intentions to enforce anti-trust laws to avoid the cost escalation associated with monopolistic providers while Fee-for-Service still dominates.