Cornell Law Review Volume 101 Issue 3

Assembled Products: The Key to More Effective Competition and Antitrust Oversight in Health Care

This Article argues that recent calls for antitrust enforcement to protect health insurers from hospital and physician consolidation are incomplete. The principal obstacle to effective competition in health care is not that one or the other party has too much bargaining power, but that they have been buying and selling the wrong things. Vigorous antitrust enforcement will benefit health care consumers only if it accounts for the competitive distortions caused by the sector’s long history of government regulation. Because of regulation, what pass for products in health care are typically small process steps and isolated components that can be assigned a billing code, even if they do little to help patients. Instead of further entrenching weakly competitive parties engaged in artificial commerce, antitrust enforcers and regulators should work together to promote the sale of fully assembled products and services that can be warranted to consumers for performance and safety. As better products emerge through innovation and market entry, competition may finally succeed at lowering medical costs, increasing access to treatment, and improving quality of care.

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