Few movies can match The Princess Bride, Rob Reiner’s 1987 jewel, for the volume of great quotes taking out of context and applied broadly to everyday conversations.
Guy cuts you off in traffic? Simply roll down your window and calmly state, ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’
Billy Crystal’s brief, but memorable, appearance as Miracle Max the Wizard will help frame up why we want to talk about a piece of legislation in California that did not make it out of the assembly and died earlier this month without a vote.
Yes, I am writing about a state bill that never even got a vote in the state legislature. Max will explain.
As we discussed last week, the California Attorney General already had the power to review, alter or block the sale of non-profit health systems to for-profit owners This bill would have extended that power to all sorts of merger and acquisitions all across the healthcare industry – for profit and not; hospitals, physician practices and most every other type of provider. Any deal over $1 million in value would have been subject to the AG’s approval authority.
The bill’s laudable goal was to protect consumers/patients from the ills of anti-competitive behavior – loss of access, price increases, lower quality. Specifically, ‘private equity groups’ and ‘hedge funds’ are named repeatedly as evil villains trying to make a buck off healthcare.
Side note worth noting – ‘Private equity group was defined to mean ‘an investor or group of investors who engages in the raising or returning of capital and who invests, develops, or disposes of specified assets.’ Thus, the boy in my neighborhood who buys and sells rare basketball shoes…he’s a ‘private equity group.’
As we noted when we began this little foray into the policies of politics, most of us accept that a robust economy requires both market forces and some level of governmental refereeing to prevent abuse. We are now just debating where to draw the line between the two.
There is a lot of room between ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’ Theoretically, that is why we have elections, in part to debate where we, collectively, want these types of lines drawn.
I would be an intellectual hypocrite if I did not acknowledge that frequently in this space I have asked why the anti-competitive regulators sleep as hospital system consolidation is allowed to progress unchecked, leaving us with dominant monopolies that harm consumers.
But, in my humble view, California SB-977 proposed to go way, way too far. The market side of the equation would be effectively shackled and impotent.
It failed to even make it to the floor for a vote before the session ended, so why am I worried?
One of Miracle Max the Wizard’s great lines was:
‘Turns out your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. See, mostly dead is still slightly alive.’
You think this idea is not coming back around?