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Insurers’ stranglehold on markets
The AMA reports that in 169 of 389 metropolitan areas, or 43%, a single health insurer had at least a 50% share of the market, an increase of 8% in a little more than two years.

“High market concentration tends to lower competition among commercial health insurers. These markets become ripe for the exercise of health insurer market power, which harms patients by raising premiums above competitive levels,” the AMA says.

The AMA study presents the most comprehensive data on the degree of competition in health insurance markets across the country, and is intended to help researchers, policymakers, and regulators identify markets where consolidation among health insurers may cause anti-competitive harm to patients and physicians.

“After years of largely unchallenged consolidation in the health insurance industry, a few recent attempts to consolidate have received closer scrutiny than in the past, including the proposed mergers of Anthem and Cigna, as well as Aetna and Humana,” said AMA President Dr. David Barbe.

“Previous versions of the AMA study played a key role in efforts to block the proposed mega-mergers by helping federal and state antitrust regulators identify markets where those mergers would cause anti-competitive harm,” he added.

According to the AMA, South Carolina is among the 10 states with the least competitive commercial health insurance markets, and among the 10 states that experienced the largest increase in market concentration between 2014 and 2016.