President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, speaking about the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act in June.
Photograph by Saul Loeb — AFP/Getty Images
By Jen Wieczner
September 11, 2015

A key part of the efforts to reform health care and control medical costs may actually have the opposite effect, a new report says.

Incentivized by the Affordable Care Act (the health care law also known as Obamacare) to more closely coordinate patients’ medical care, hospitals have lately been scooping up doctors’ offices. In 2015, there were 95 hospital mergers and acquisitions, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

But a recent study at Stanford University found that doctors who work for hospitals were much more likely to refer patients to their employer, as opposed to another, lower-cost hospital close by. The hospitals where patients were sent—and which owned their doctor’s office—also tended to be expensive and low-quality, NPR reported in an article titled, “When The Hospital Is Boss, That’s Where Doctors’ Patients Go.”

As NPR put it, working for hospitals seems to have turned physicians into shills for their employer:

Doctors are the hospital’s sales force, although they don’t like to think of it that way.

Next time you see your doctor, consider asking, “Who’s your boss?”

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