Will hospital merger mania continue?

Excerpted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.

The collapse of affiliation talks between Care New England,  the Rhode Island hospital chain, and Southcoast Health, in southeastern Massachusetts, as did the collapse of Lifespan and Care New England talks a few years back, raises the question of when we’ll see another hospital chain merger around here, given the inevitable turf battles.

With the drive for economies of scale and for sharing access to the best care and research, will the latest collapse lead to a big Boston-based chain coming in and taking over? Partners HealthCare, whose hospitals include Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women’s, might eye expansion in these parts because Massachusetts regulators think that it has gotten too big and powerful in Greater Boston. The Brown Medical School would presumably not like a Partners invasion because Partners is joined at the hip with the Harvard Medical School behemoth. Maybe given the size and executive salaries of hospitals these days, affiliating with the Harvard Business School would be appropriate.

Many hospital chains want to merge to strengthen their bargaining power with huge insurance companies. Maybe in 10 years, we’ll have “Medicare for all,’’ which will make much of this moot.

In the meantime, we have something to learn from those independent hospitals, such as South County Hospital,  in southern Rhode Island, that have maintained their independence and high-quality care in the face of the massive disruption that that healthcare sector is now undergoing.