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Patents, Antitrust, and the High Cost of Health Care

 |  January 14, 2014

Posted by Social Science Research Network

Patents, Antitrust, and the High Cost of Health Care – Thomas F. Cotter (University of Minnesota Law School)

ABSTRACT: Americans pay much more for health care than do consumers in other countries, but whether the expense is worth it is, to say the least, debatable. This essay discusses the comparative role of patents, antitrust, and other bodies of law in contributing to the high cost of health care in the United States. I argue that, although patents play a part in raising health care costs, that effect is offset to some degree by substantial countervailing benefits. More troubling has been a two-decade-long failure of antitrust law to prevent anticompetitive hospital mergers and other welfare-reducing practices, though in recent years the courts and agencies have begun to correct some of the worst abuses. Arguably more significant than the failures of either of these two bodies of law, however, are the many ways in which hospitals, drug companies, and other health-related industries often have been able to capture Congress and other entities that supposedly regulate their behavior.