What happens when for-profits take over hospitals?


(Psst: It’s not good).


A detailed study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association documented this clearly: “Private equity acquisition was associated with increased hospital-acquired adverse events, including falls and central line–associated bloodstream infections, along with a larger but less statistically precise increase in surgical site infections.” 

Full article at:


This should not be surprising. Private equities are in healthcare to make money, and money is made by cutting expenses and increasing revenue. From the private equity perspective, doctors and nurses could be making shoes just as easily as taking care of patients. 

While these entities are making billions, patients, their families, and clinical staff are suffering. And don’t forget the taxpayers, employers, and individuals who are footing the bill.

As a result, the US spends more on healthcare per-capita than any other country, but we rank 67th in the international Statista Health Index Score. 


To put it bluntly: there are too many pigs feasting at the healthcare trough… and at our expense. 


This was described by Dr. Donald Berwick in his JAMA article:

“Salve Lucrum: The Existential Threat of Greed in US Health Care.” He wrote, “The grip of financial self-interest in US healthcare is becoming a stranglehold, with dangerous and pervasive consequences. No sector of US health care is immune from the immoderate pursuit of profit…The cycle is vicious: unchecked greed concentrates wealth, wealth concentrates political power, and political power blocks constraints on greed.” Full article at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2801097?guestAccessKey=ffab3c72-bbd7-42d9-98cc-9799f47cc133&utm_source=silve

Sadly, for those of us who are on the front lines, this is nothing new. Even worse is that so-called “non-profit” hospitals are doing the same thing in order to sustain excessive executive salaries. Common Spirit Health (formed by the merger of Catholic Health and Dignity Health) is the largest non-profit health system in the US. Its current CEO was paid $15 million last year with many other executives making $1-5 million. In my home state of Maryland, where all hospitals are technically non-profits, the executives make millions (one over $15million), while we have the longest ER waits in the country.

The above does not address the myriad of problems affecting America’s health and healthcare – our poor ranking in health measures compared to other developed nations from falling life expectancy to rising infant and maternal mortality, profiteering pharmaceutical companies, and unaffordable medications. Medical debt continues to be the most common cause of personal bankruptcies. And alone among modern nations, we still lack universal health coverage.

Don’t let anyone tell you that we don’t have the money to do better. We do. The money is there. It's just not going to where it's needed: to those who perform the front-line work of patient care, for preventive services and public health, and to create an effective affordable system that focuses on care rather than profit.

What to do? Like any problem, the first step is to recognize and acknowledge it. And then speak up.


Feedback appreciated, and please share as appropriate.



Dan Morhaim, M.D.

Author: "Preparing for a Better End" (Johns Hopkins Press)

Dan Morhaim | POB 212, Stevenson, MD 21153