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Obamacare has meant record profits for hospitals, not to the benefit of the public

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Protesters rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Lots of people oppose Republican healthcare legislation, for lots of reasons. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Lots of people oppose Republican healthcare legislation, for lots of reasons. One opponent that is treated as an authority, but perhaps should not be, is the hospital lobby.

When NBC News writes "Just About Every Major Medical Group Hates the GOP Health Care Plans," when Business Insider writes, "Doctors and patient advocates are slamming the Senate Republicans' healthcare plan," and when The Hill writes, "Healthcare groups issue scathing criticism of Senate bill," they all cite the American Hospital Association's opposition as weighty.

This is a venerable defense of Obamacare. Liberal Mother Jones wrote, during the 2015 legal challenge to the law, "If getting rid of Obamacare is such a good idea, why isn't corporate America getting behind King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court case designed to demolish the Affordable Care Act?" The argument was that the Hospital Corporation of America's defense of Obamacare somehow should be persuasive.

Liberal Obama supporters like the Center for American Progress held up the support of hospital investors like Bill Frist as meaningful.

A recent Politico piece provides context. In short, under Obamacare, hospitals have enjoyed record profits, and not necessarily by providing benefits to the public:

Obamacare may have been a mixed blessing for those seeking coverage through the state exchanges, some of which have seen double-digit annual premium hikes, but it's been a clear boon for the nation's hospitals.
Multiple studies have linked the ACA's coverage expansion to improved financial performance, with one analysis finding that hospitals' profit margins went up by 25 percent in states that expanded Medicaid in 2014. Overall, the industry boasted an 8.3 percent profit margin that year, according to the most recent figures published by the American Hospital Association. That's the highest performance on record — more than triple the industry's 2.6 percent profit margin in 2008, amid the recession and before the Obama administration began pushing its health care reforms — and it's only invited scrutiny from advocates and researchers who say that it's a sign the system is broken.

More importantly, the industry of healthcare providers has been consolidating, with smaller practitioners forced by regulations to sell out to bigger hospitals, meaning consumers have fewer choices and the market has less competition.

Good news for the big guys. Bad news for everyone else.

Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.