2023’s Top Healthcare Stories: Rising Costs, Mergers, and More

The year 2023 was marked by regulatory changes, technological leaps, and continuing economic challenges for the healthcare industry.

Amid these transitions, it can be difficult to remember that the main priority for industry stakeholders is providing excellent care, and that improving the patient experience is part of that care. 

As the healthcare sector works to adapt, our mission at AccessOne remains committed to expanding accessibility and affordability. 

And as we look to improve the healthcare industry, we need to keep up with what’s going on, work through our present challenges, and build a more resilient and patient-centric future.

Let’s take a look at the top healthcare stories from 2023.

1) The COVID Public Health Emergency is Over 

Ever since the end of the COVID Public Health Emergency (PHE) in May, healthcare policies have shifted away from emergency-driven measures and towards a new normal.

These changes are significant in the areas of payment and coverage, especially for patients on Medicaid. With states being required to conduct eligibility reviews for Medicaid and CHIP programs, as many as 4 million people had already lost coverage by late July of 2023. 

These adjustments in Medicaid enrollment present an interesting challenge for healthcare providers.

It’s more important than ever to help patients understand their financial responsibility for each exam and treatment. Above all, patients need options for meeting those financial obligations, both through cost transparency and flexible financing.

Providers must guarantee that patients can access the care they need, without harming the bottom line. 

2) Cybercriminals Want Healthcare Data 

The surge in healthcare data breaches in the first half of 2023 underscores a growing threat to the healthcare sector, revealing a critical need for robust cybersecurity measures. 

Data breaches have far-reaching ramifications for both patients and providers.

Patient data, a cornerstone of healthcare, becomes vulnerable and leads to identity theft or fraud. Providers face the direct fallout of compromised data, the erosion of patient trust, and the financial repercussions of potential lawsuits and regulatory penalties. 

Focusing on preventive security strategies has become paramount, in order to safeguard the integrity of patient information and sustain the trust that underpins effective healthcare delivery. 

3) Steeply Rising Healthcare Costs

Medical inflation is pushing healthcare costs higher and higher, reaching a staggering $31,000 for a family of four in 2023.

Coupled with healthcare staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions, U.S. employers are facing the largest increase in health insurance costs in a decade. Not only will patients be continually looking for ways to decrease their financial obligations, but employers will be looking for price transparency to help employees price shop for certain procedures. 

Financial stress is a top concern for Americans, as 3 out of 4 consumers report that they don’t pay their bill right away, with 70% of those saying it’s because they cannot afford to do so. 

Now more than ever, flexible payment solutions like those offered by AccessOne could make the difference between patients seeking and receiving necessary care or going without. 

4) Supreme Court Cases Impact Healthcare

Small fishing vessels? Financial fraud? Consumer Protection Bureau Funding? 

These three topics are seemingly unrelated to healthcare, but they can potentially impact healthcare policies and regulations in the U.S.


Each one of these three cases currently headed to the Supreme Court carries implications for the power of federal agencies like the FDA and CDC. 

These cases question the authority and funding of federal agencies, meaning that how the cases are decided will determine if rules and regulations for healthcare need to go before Congress. 

Funding and response to emergency situations could be delayed due to a historically slow and gridlocked Congress, which could carry significant challenges for healthcare access. 

5) Consolidations Continue

Just as we saw with our review of M&A activity for 2022, the fierce pace continued this year, with 18 hospital mergers announced in the third quarter alone. 

Just a few of the most notable healthcare mergers  included: 

  • UC Health and Parkview Health System.
  • Kaiser Permanente and Geisinger.
  • Presbyterian Healthcare Services and UnityPoint Health.
  • BJC HealthCare and St. Luke’s Health System.
  • Froedtert Health and ThedaCare.
  • Amazon and One Medical.
  • Marshfield Clinic Health System and Essential Health.

With M&A transactions, come financial implications for healthcare access. Often, healthcare mergers mean closing facilities, making it difficult for the most vulnerable segments of the population to receive care. 

When larger systems acquire smaller systems, competition declines and healthcare prices increase. Many states are putting policies in place to formalize a system of approval and reviews for health system mergers. 

6) (Still) Not Enough Healthcare Workers 

The healthcare labor market continues to grapple with a significant shortage of workers, on both the administrative and clinical side.

Alarming trends appeared in multiple headlines throughout 2023, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a shortage of 275,000 nurses through 2030. 

Not only does a healthcare staffing shortage drastically impact the patient financial experience, it also brings financial challenges for healthcare organizations. Healthcare quality is impacted because of issues like poor patient data quality, increased claims denials, and a slow flow of information. 

These issues culminate in a frustrating healthcare experience for patients and a perpetually lagging revenue cycle, which carries risks for provider sustainability and growth. 

7) Technology Helps Cut Costs

We’ve been discussing digital transformation for a few years now, especially in the COVID-19 era. 

Now, digital solutions and AI-powered technology are the keys to future profitability and sustainability. One recent study found that administrative complexity is the single largest component of excess health spending in the U.S. 

While self-service tools have been widely adopted for pre-visit tasks like scheduling, they are especially important for payment. These tools, like AccessOne’s MobilePay, are helping to shoulder the administrative burden (i.e., reduce costs) while adding value to the patient’s financial experience. 

Patients are ready for digitally advanced payment tools, which allow for access to support when and how patients need it. A recent U.S. Bank survey found that 44% of U.S. healthcare consumers pay medical bills faster when they receive digital or phone notifications about billing, and 49% would pay by text if available. 

Stay Ahead of Tomorrow’s Headlines with AccessOne 

Economic challenges because of rising costs, changing demographics, and healthcare staffing shortages will likely continue to make headlines into 2024. 

As the healthcare sector looks to adapt to patient needs and respond to a difficult economic environment, providers need to do everything possible to ensure patients are at the center of every part of the healthcare experience—from appointment to payment. 

Learn how healthcare organizations are making their own (positive) headlines with AccessOne’s patient-centric payment solutions.

Schedule a demo to see it in action today. 

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