Eleanor Kennedy | Nashville Business Journal

Marilyn Tavenner and Mindy Hatton speak for two different sides of the health care industry. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that they’d use the same words to talk about insurer consolidation, just slightly inverted.

Tavenner, the former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who now serves as president of insurer industry association America’s Health Insurance Plans, told a group of Nashville Health Care Council event attendees that the consolidation we’re seeing from insurers — exemplified by pending mergers between Anthem and Cigna and Aetna and Humana — is driven by more than just the Affordable Care Act.

Payer consolidation, she said, “is not new,” it’s just moving at a faster pace today than in the past. A big part of the reason: the parties involved are asking themselves, “How do I become an innovator in the space?” said Tavenner, who briefly served as a board member of LifePoint Health earlier this year.

Hatton, senior vice president and general counsel for the American Hospital Association, also brought up the big “I” buzzword, but spoke from the perspective of providers — aka, the hospital service cornerstone of Nashville’s health care industry. The question, she said, is what will the country’s insurance leaders banding together mean for continued innovation and the pace of change.

“It really raises some concerns for providers,” Tate said.

Tate and Tavenner, along with panelist Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, all said whatever happens with consolidation, the parties involved need to be focused on what’s best for the consumer.

Ganz, whose company was itself formed via consolidation in the insurance industry, works in the Pacific Northwest, where provider consolidation has been much more rampant than that on the payer side. In both cases, Ganz said, motives matter. Times when those motives have not been consumer-focused have been problematic, he said.

“And that worries me,” Ganz told the audience.

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