Health care providers with market power enjoy substantially more pricing freedom than monopolists in other markets, for a reason not generally recognized: US-style health insurance. Consequently, monopolies in health care cause undesirable redistribution of wealth and inefficient allocation of resources, both of which burden consumers at levels beyond those of other monopolists.
The unusual costliness of monopoly power in health care markets demands far more policy attention than it has received. For starters, the health sector needs a more aggressive antitrust policy that effectively prevents the creation of new provider market power through mergers, alliances, or government immunity. An immediate need is ensuring that the formation of accountable care organizations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which in theory might achieve efficiencies through vertical integrations, do not primarily lead to horizontal integrations that give providers additional market power.