INSURANCE CONSOLIDATION MAY SOON INCLUDE HOSPITALS, CREATE POWERHOUSES

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/insurance-consolidation-may-soon-include-hospitals-create-powerhouses

Image result for healthcare conglomerates

 

Recent moves to consolidate insurance customers under one corporate structure could lead next to carriers acquiring hospital networks.

The continued market consolidation and efforts to create an “all-in-one” approach to healthcare insurance customers may lead to carriers acquiring large hospital networks, particularly if the CVS-Aetna transaction proves to be successful and profitable, one analyst says.

The mergers and acquisitions in the insurance industry over the last year is the preamble for what will happen over the next two years, says CEO of Tom Borzilleri of InteliSys Health, a company aimed at bringing greater transparency to prescription drug prices, and the former founder and CEO of a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM).

The effort will ramp up to include hospitals if health plans start seeing financial rewards from the recent moves, he says.

“We are seeing carriers acquiring PBMs, as with Cigna/Express Scripts, and pharmacy chains/PBMs acquiring carriers, like CVS/Aetna, in search of cost efficiencies to increase earnings,” he says. “One may view these mergers and acquisitions as a favorable strategy to delivering both cost savings and patient convenience, but this strategy also has the potential to produce a serious negative effect on other critical stakeholders like doctors, hospitals, clinics, and others.”

In the past, many carriers managed their pharmacy benefits internally and found that it would be more cost-efficient to outsource that function to third-party PBMs, Borzilleri notes.

“As the PBM industry grew significantly over the last decade, allowing PBMs to gain market share and buying power for the millions of lives they managed, it opened the door for PBMs to methodically profiteer at the expense of both the carriers and their insured through the vague and complicated contracts for services the carriers were forced to sign,” he says.

Borzilleri continues, “In essence, the carriers really didn’t know what they were paying for at the end of the day for these services. As the market began to change with the onset of a movement and demand within the industry for more price transparency, carriers began to realize that they would be better served to bring the PBM function back in-house to reduce costs and increase earnings.”

CREATING A CLOSED LOOP

Borzilleri explains that a merger like the CVS-Aetna acquisition provides the insurer the ability to:

  • Control drug costs by eliminating the profits that the PBM formerly enjoyed
  • Realize cost efficiencies to dispense medications at the pharmacy level
  • Directly employ the providers that can treat their members at a cost much lower than the reimbursement rates they currently pay their network doctors
  • Create a brand-new revenue stream from the retail products sold in these stores

That brings a ton of reward to CVS-Aetna, but not to anyone else, Borzilleri says.

“This type of closed-loop network will limit patient options to everything from who will be treating them, where they will be treated, and how much they will be forced to pay for services and their prescriptions,” he says.

“Based on the millions of patient lives that both CVS-Caremark and Aetna manage, patients will be herded into their own locations to be treated by their own doctors/providers and the independent physician or practice will be significantly impacted. So in essence, both the patients and doctors who treat them will lose,” Borzilleri says.

RETURNING TO CLASSIC DESIGN

Hospital acquisition also could be driven by consumers, says Bill Shea, vice president  of Cognizant, a company providing digital, consulting, and other services to healthcare providers. As consumers select health services on demand, they will create their own systems of care instead of relying on a third party to do so, he says.

“The impact of these changes likely means integrated delivery systems must focus on providing on-demand healthcare and do so on a large scale. These systems can point to the proven value of offering a vetted and curated set of cost-effective providers and coordinating care to deliver better cost and quality outcomes,” Shea says.

Health plans also may consider returning to their pre-managed care origins to purse a classic insurance model of benefit design, risk management, and underwriting, he says. Some organizations could become a one-stop shop for every insurance need.

“These diversified insurance players will have the economies of scale to better manage profit and loss across multiple lines of business and to take creative approaches to health-related insurance, such as offering personalized policies targeted to specific market segments,” Shea says.

MORE STATE, REGIONAL MOVES

Consolidation is likely to increase at the state and regional level, says Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform.

“As providers with market dominance command higher prices, insurers will need to amass greater market power to push back. This means fewer choices of insurers for employers, other healthcare purchasers and consumers,” Delbanco says.

She says, “Fewer choices means less competition and less pressure to innovate. It’s possible we’ll see more of the integrated delivery systems and accountable care organizations beginning to offer insurance products where state laws and regulations allow them to as new entrants into the market.”

Those changes will make it more and more difficult to thrive as a small insurer or a small provider, she says.

Also, while rising prices and a continuation of uneven quality will motivate employers and other healthcare purchasers to demand greater transparency into provider performance and prices, larger players may more easily resist that call, she says.

“Increasingly it will be a seller’s game, not a buyer’s,” Delbanco says. “While quality measurement, provider payment reforms, and healthcare delivery reforms increasingly move toward putting the patient at the center, this may be more lip service than reality. Even if consumers end up with more information to make smarter decisions, their options may have dwindled to ones that are largely unaffordable.”

 

Viewpoint: Small hospitals should be hopeful and wary of national health systems

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/viewpoint-small-hospitals-should-be-hopeful-and-wary-of-national-health-systems.html

636559387263432757-ccwestonbuilding.jpg

With Cleveland Clinic eyeing acquisitions at two locations on Florida’s Treasure Coast — Indian River Medical Center in Vero Beach and Martin Health System in Stuart — residents and hospital workers should be wary but hopeful, according to the local TC Palm.

That a national power in the healthcare industry wants to snap up two independent nonprofit hospitals in Florida is no surprise. The area’s patient population has the trifecta of demographics: aging, wealthy and insured, TC Palm‘s Gil Smart wrote. In an era of increasing expenses, declining reimbursements and growing powers, finding a partner system can give small hospitals more weight in negotiations and help fund capital for investments in growth and change.

Yet as examples have shown, allowing bigger players to come into local markets means change, and not all of it is good, Mr. Smart noted. Unions will have it tougher at the negotiation table and control will change hands.

“Bottom line: There will be a loss of local control. There always is, where the bigger, faraway healthcare system gulps down the local guy,” Mr. Smart wrote. “Yet we shouldn’t let the drawbacks overshadow the potential benefits of having a globally renowned healthcare ‘brand’ set up shop in our backyards.”

The benefits, such as easier, better and more coordinated care, are a lot to be hopeful for. Read the full column here.

https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/editorials/2018/06/04/cleveland-clinic-mean-better-health-care-here/668585002/

 

 

 

It’s the Monopolies, Stupid!

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2018/may/drug-monopolies-pricing?omnicid=EALERT1410094&mid=henrykotula@yahoo.com

Image result for pharmaceutical monopoly

At the core of the nation’s drug pricing problem is one fundamental fact: Drug companies enjoy government-sanctioned and -enforced monopolies over the supply of many drugs.

These monopolies result from patents awarded under federal law for novel molecules. Patents allow manufacturers to prevent competitors from selling the same drug for 20 years from the time the patent is filed. Given that the process of gaining regulatory approval to market their new drug takes time, research suggests new drugs have, on average, 12 to 13 years of market exclusivity.

Once new drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the monopolies assured by patents enable pharmaceutical companies to charge any price they choose. They generally pick prices that not only cover their development costs, but also generate profits that exceed those of most other industries: for example, the average profit margin for the 25 largest software companies (which are cited as having the same high R&D investment and low production and distribution costs as pharmaceutical companies) was 13.4 percent in 2015, while the average profit margin for the 25 largest drug companies was 20.1 percent in 2015. Drugmakers are also free to raise prices whenever they want at rates they alone determine.

The existence of patents does not totally prevent competition. Often, other companies introduce drugs that are distinct enough to justify their own separate patents and accomplish the same therapeutic goal. This results in competition that lowers drug prices, but often by not enough to make the medications affordable for many patients. In addition, the makers of patented drugs — for example, Mylan’s EpiPen and the weight-loss drug Suprenza — have developed effective mechanisms to extend the lives of their patents beyond 20 years. These approaches include making minor modifications in the formulations or packaging of drugs that have no clinical significance, as well as paying potential generic competitors not to introduce generic drugs.

That said, patents eventually expire, at which point generic drug companies can manufacture the drug and sell it at a much lower price. But even generic drug competition has been weakened recently by generic drug market monopolies, as these manufacturers have bought up their competition. As a result, the prices of old and familiar drugs have risen dramatically. The price of the cardiac drug isuprel has increased more than sixfold between 2013 and 2015, and the price of the antibiotic doxycycline has soared 90-fold over the same period.

As long as drug companies (or a small group) hold monopoly (or oligopoly) power over potent new therapies, there is no free market solution to lowering drug prices. Only a countervailing nonmarket force of equal strength can bring those prices down. Other western industrial countries, recognizing this, authorize their governments to step in and moderate drug prices for the benefit of their citizenry. Some set prices by fiat, while other negotiate with drug companies. In the latter case, the negotiations are sometimes guided by comparative effectiveness analysis that estimates the value of new drugs to patients. Of course, drug companies are free to walk away from such deals, but they generally choose not to, presumably because they still make money from those sales.

Drug companies say their monopoly earnings are necessary to sustain the research and development that produce new drugs. In effect they are saying that they need to be able to charge the very high prices we now see for patented drugs so they can innovate. This raises the questions of how much money society should allocate toward pharmaceutical innovation and who should decide. Setting those questions aside for the moment, we should be very clear about one thing: As long as pharmaceutical companies have uncontested market power to set prices for many patented and generic drugs, those prices will remain a huge problem for Americans and their elected representatives.

California Hospital Giant Sutter Health Faces Heavy Backlash On Prices

http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/quality/california-hospital-giant-sutter-health-faces-heavy-backlash-prices?utm_source=silverpop&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180516_HLM_Daily_resend%20(1)&spMailingID=13521389&spUserID=MTY3ODg4NTg1MzQ4S0&spJobID=1401466260&spReportId=MTQwMTQ2NjI2MAS2

 

The state’s top cop is suing Sutter, accusing one of the nation’s biggest health systems of systematically overcharging patients and illegally driving out competition.

Cooking dinner one night in March, Mark Frizzell sliced his pinkie finger while peeling a butternut squash and couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The 51-year-old businessman headed to the emergency room at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Sutter charged $1,555 for the 10 minutes it treated him, including $55 for a gel bandage and $487 for a tetanus shot.

“It was ridiculous,” he said. “Health insurance costs are through the roof because of things like this.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra couldn’t agree more. The state’s top cop is suing Sutter, accusing one of the nation’s biggest health systems of systematically overcharging patients and illegally driving out competition in Northern California.

For years, economists and researchers have warned of the dangers posed by large health systems across the country that are gobbling up hospitals, surgery centers and physicians’ offices — enabling them to limit competition and hike prices.

Becerra’s suit amounts to a giant test case with the potential for national repercussions. If California prevails and is able to tame prices at Northern California’s most powerful, dominant health system, regulators and politicians in other states are likely to follow.

“A major court ruling in California could be a deterrent to other hospital systems,” said Ge Bai, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University who has researched hospital prices nationwide. “We’re getting to a tipping point where the nation cannot afford these out-of-control prices.”

Reflecting that sense of public desperation, Sutter faces two other major suits — from employers and consumers — which are wending their way through the courts, both alleging anticompetitive conduct and inflated pricing. Meanwhile, California lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban some contracting practices used by large health systems to corner markets.

Sutter, a nonprofit chain, is pushing back hard, denying anticompetitive behavior and accusing Becerra in court papers of a “sweeping and unprecedented effort to intrude into private contracting.” Recognizing the broader implications of the suit, both the American Hospital Association and its California counterpart asked to file amicus briefs in support of Sutter.

In his 49-page complaint, Becerra cited a recent study finding that, on average, an inpatient procedure in Northern California costs 70 percent more than one in Southern California. He said there was no justification for that difference and stopped just short of dropping an expletive to make his point.

“This is a big ‘F’ deal,” Becerra declared at his March 30 news conference to unveil the lawsuit. In an interview last week, he said, “We don’t believe it’s fair to allow consolidation to end up artificially driving up prices. … This anticompetitive behavior is not only bad for consumers, it’s bad for the state and for businesses.”

To lessen Sutter’s market power, the state’s lawsuit seeks to force Sutter to negotiate reimbursements separately for each of its hospitals — precluding an “all or nothing” approach — and to bar Sutter employees from sharing the details of those negotiations across its facilities. Becerra said Sutter has required insurers and employers to contract with its facilities systemwide or face “excessively high out-of-network rates.”

Heft In The Marketplace

Overall, Sutter has 24 hospitals, 36 surgery centers and more than 5,500 physicians in its network. The system boasts more than $12 billion in annual revenue and posted net income of $958 million last year.

The company’s heft in the marketplace is one reason why Northern California is the most expensive place in the country to have a baby, according to a 2016 report. A cesarean delivery in Sacramento, where Sutter is based, cost $27,067, nearly double what it costs in Los Angeles and New York City.

For years, doctors and consumers have also accused Sutter of cutting hospital beds and critical services in rural communities to maximize revenue. “Patients are the ones getting hurt,” said Dr. Greg Duncan, an orthopedic surgeon and former board member at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, Calif.

Sutter says patients across Northern California have plenty of providers to choose from and that it has held its average rate increases to health plans to less than 3 percent annually since 2012. It also says it does not require all facilities to be included in every contract — that insurers have excluded parts of its system from their networks.

As for emergency room patients like Frizzell, Sutter says its charges reflect the cost of maintaining services round-the-clock and that for some patients urgent-care centers are a less costly option.

“The California Attorney General’s lawsuit gets the facts wrong,” Sutter said in a statement. “Our integrated network of high-quality doctors and care centers aims to provide better, more efficient care — and has proven to help lower costs.”

Regulators in other states also have sought to block deals they view as potentially harmful.

In North Carolina, for instance, the state’s attorney general and treasurer both expressed concerns about a proposed merger between the University of North Carolina Health Care system and Charlotte-based Atrium Health. The two dropped their bid in March. The combined system would have had roughly $14 billion in revenue and more than 50 hospitals.

Last year, in Illinois, state and federal officials persuaded a judge to block the merger between Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem. The Federal Trade Commission said the new entity would have had 60 percent market share in Chicago’s northern suburbs. Still, Advocate won approval for a new deal with Wisconsin’s Aurora Health Care last month, creating a system with $11 billion in annual revenue.

Antitrust experts say states can deliver a meaningful counterpunch to health care monopolies, but they warn that these cases aren’t easy to win and it could be too little, too late in some markets.

“How do you unscramble the egg?” said Zack Cooper, an assistant professor of economics and health policy at Yale University. “There aren’t a lot of great solutions.”

A Seven-Year Investigation

California authorities took their time sounding the alarm over Sutter — a fact Sutter is now using against the state in court.

The state attorney general’s office, under the leadership of Democrat Kamala Harris, now a U.S. senator, started investigating Sutter seven years ago with a 2011 subpoena, court documents show. Sutter said the investigation appeared to go dormant in March 2015, just as Harris began ramping up her Senate campaign.

Becerra, a Democrat and former member of Congress, was appointed to replace Harris last year, took over the investigation and sued Sutter on March 29. His aggressive action comes as he prepares for a June 5 primary against three opponents.

Sutter faces a separate class-action suit in San Francisco state court, spearheaded by a health plan covering unionized grocery workers and representing more than 2,000 employer-funded health plans. The plaintiffs are seeking to recoup $700 million for alleged overcharges plus damages of $1.4 billion if Sutter is found liable for antitrust violations. Sutter also has been sued in federal court by five consumers who blame the health system for inflating their insurance premiums and copays. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status.

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow granted Becerra’s request to consolidate his case with the grocery workers’ suit, which is slated for trial in June 2019.

The judge sanctioned Sutter in November after finding that Sutter was “grossly reckless” in intentionally destroying 192 boxes of evidence that were relevant to antitrust issues. As a result, Karnow said, he will consider issuing jury instructions that are adverse to Sutter.

In a note to employees, Sutter chief executive Sarah Krevans said she deeply regretted the situation but “mistakes do happen.”

In an April 27 court filing, Sutter’s lawyers criticized the state for piggybacking onto the grocery workers’ case. “The government sat on its hands for seven years, exposing the public to the alleged anticompetitive conduct. … Rather than driving the agenda, the Attorney General seeks to ride coattails.”

Outside court, California legislators are taking aim at “all or nothing” contracting terms used by Sutter and other hospital chains. The proposed law stalled last year amid opposition from the hospital industry. But consumer and labor groups are seeking to revive it this year.

In the meantime, Frizzell said he will probably wind up at one of Sutter’s hospitals again despite his disgust over his ER bill. “Most of the hospitals here are Sutter,” he said. “It’s difficult to avoid them.”

71% of Healthcare Orgs Say Mergers and Acquisitions Will Increase

http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/leadership/71-healthcare-orgs-say-mergers-and-acquisitions-will-increase?utm_source=edit&utm_medium=ENL&utm_campaign=HLM-Best-SilverPop_05042018&utm_source=silverpop&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180504_HLM_BestOf%20(1)&spMailingID=13437465&spUserID=MTY3ODg4NTg1MzQ4S0&spJobID=1400286374&spReportId=MTQwMDI4NjM3NAS2

Image result for hospital consolidation

 

Compelling results from the new HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report indicate that M&A activity levels will remain strong for some time.

Healthcare industry merger, acquisition, and partnership (MAP) activity remains strong, with little change in momentum after years of consolidation activity.

According to the 2018 HealthLeaders Media Mergers, Acquisitions, and Partnerships Survey, 71% of respondents expect their organizations’ MAP activity to increase within the next three years, a compelling result indicating that MAP activity levels will remain strong for some time. Only 20% say they expect MAP activity to remain the same, and only 2% expect this to decrease.

“I believe that the healthcare market is still under a lot of pressure from continuing reimbursement and regulatory challenges,” says Pamela Stoyanoff, MBA, CPA, FACHE, executive vice president, chief operating officer at Methodist Health System, a Dallas-based nonprofit integrated healthcare network with 10 hospitals and 28 family health centers.

“The competitive landscape is also changing, with companies entering the healthcare space that haven’t been there before, like Amazon, and unique partnerships forming like Optum buying the Health Care Advisory Board and CVS buying Aetna,” she says.

Sustained activity levels

The case for sustained activity levels over the next few years can be seen in the following: 36% of respondents say that their organization’s MAP plans for the next 12–18 months consist of both exploring potential deals and completing deals underway.

If you combine this result with the response for exploring potential deals (32%), the total reveals that 68% of respondents say they are exploring potential deals, a strong indicator for future MAP activity. Only 12% of respondents say they will be completing deals underway and mention no plans for future MAP activity.

Another aspect that reflects bullish sentiment is the dollar value of MAP activity, with 73% of respondents expecting the dollar value of their organization’s MAP activity to increase within the next three years.

Only 15% expect MAP dollar value to remain the same, and only 2% expect it to decrease. These results are considerably more positive than last year’s survey results, which were increase (55%), remain the same (34%), and decrease (12%).

 

Walmart, Not Amazon, May Turn Out To Be The Real Health Care Disruptor

https://www.investors.com/news/walmart-humana-amazon-disrupt-health-care/

Image result for Walmart, Not Amazon, May Turn Out To Be The Real Health Care Disruptor

Every Amazon (AMZN) flirtation toward the health care industry has sent hearts racing on Wall Street. Yet Amazon appears to be having commitment issues, and others have leapt while Jeff Bezos hesitated. Now comes a possible Walmart (WMT)-Humana (HUM) merger. A Walmart acquisition of the insurer could fundamentally reshape health care delivery in ways that Amazon may have trouble matching.

A Walmart-Humana deal could potentially transform the health care market for seniors, a demographic that is critical for both companies.

Walmart already operates about 4,500 in-store pharmacies and 2,900 vision centers, but a Humana deal would likely accelerate its efforts in developing in-store clinics. The clinics haven’t been a knockout success, but Walmart has been learning, wrote Tracy Watts, U.S. health reform leader at Mercer, in a blog post. “This partnership could foster new ways to bring people what they want and need,” she wrote, highlighting health care access in rural areas.

CVS Health (CVS), which is in the process of acquiring Aetna (AET), is planning to revamp its drugstores to provide more health services. Walmart has greater financial wherewithal to execute the strategy and its supercenters may be a more natural fit for health services.

Strategic Merits For Walmart-Humana

A Walmart-Humana tie-up has strategic merits for the retail giant, wrote Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan. He expects it would drive greater store traffic and produce health care cost savings, helping the discounter to keep investing to fend off Amazon.

Savings would come from closer ties to Humana, the largest remaining independent pharmacy benefits manager. That would help to reduce drug prices for Walmart’s 1.5 million U.S. employees, Astrachan wrote.

Humana recently purchased a major stake in the home health care business of Kindred Healthcare, a natural fit for Walmart’s home delivery business.

Still, there would be challenges. Piper Jaffray analyst Sarah James sees hurdles to staffing up clinics amid a nursing shortage that’s pushing up wages. She also questioned how attractive a merger would be for Humana. Humana has an enviable Medicare position while Walmart has a smaller store base compared to CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).

Still, Humana shares rose 4.4% on the stock market today, even as the Dow Jones, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite all lost about 2% or more. Meanwhile, shares of Walmart lost 3.8% and Amazon skidded 5.2%.

Amazon Threat Spurs Action

So far Amazon’s disruptive impact on health care has been all about what others are doing. Since reports last summer that Amazon might enter the retail prescription industry, the shockwaves have set in motion one deal after another. First it was CVS buying Aetna and beginning to offer same-day delivery in major markets, and next-day nationwide. Albertsons grabbed the Rite Aid (RAD) stores not bought by Walgreens. Last month, Cigna (CI) announced the purchase of Express Scripts (ESRX), the largest of the pharmacy benefit managers.

Options to enter the prescription drug business have narrowed for Amazon but haven’t been closed off entirely. One potential avenue would be acquiring Walgreens.

In January, Amazon announced a health care venture with JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB). Health care stocks tumbled amid fear that Amazon would use the same formula that slayed book sellers and department stores. The scariest part: The companies say they have no intent to earn a profit from the effort. Yet they also confessed to a lack of any coherent plan for putting still-to-be-formed cost-saving ideas to work.

 

 

Global M&A activity hits record high on mega US health care deals

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/04/global-ma-activity-hits-record-high-on-mega-us-health-care-deals.html

A CVS Pharmacy store is seen in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 30, 2017.

 

  • In the first three months of 2018, there were 3,774 deals globally, totaling $890.7 billion.
  • So far this year, there have been $393.9 billion invested in U.S. companies.
  • Domestic activity was also particularly strong in China.

Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity across the world has hit a seventeen-year-record high in the first quarter of 2018, according to a report by research firm Mergermarket.

In the first three months of 2018, there were 3,774 deals globally, totaling $890.7 billion, it said Wednesday. This was the strongest start to the year since 2001, when Mergermarket began recording the data, and represents an 18 percent increase in value compared to the first quarter of 2017.

“The extraordinary surge in dealmaking seen at the end of 2017 has carried through into 2018,” Jonathan Klonowski, research editor at Mergermarket said in the quarterly report, citing pressure from shareholders and a search for innovation as the main drivers.

“Amazon’s move into pharmaceuticals appears to have been a catalyst for dealmaking in health care-related areas with the CVS/Aetna deal announced in December and the Cigna/Express Scripts transaction this quarter,” he added.

Amazon announced a partnership with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett in January to reduce health costs for U.S. employees. The move has sparked fears that the retail giant could enter and compete with traditional health care businesses. As result, the sector has consolidated to fight possible future competition from Amazon.

Cigna bought Express Scripts in a $54 billion cash-and-stock deal in early March. CVS also approved the acquisition of Aetna for about $69 billion in cash and stock last month.

Such deals have been particularly relevant in the U.S., where M&A activity during the first quarter of the year represented 44.2 percent of the total global share.

So far this year, there have been $393.9 billion invested in U.S. companies, according to the report. This represented a 26.1 percent increase from the same period a year ago. “Domestic dealmaking has been a key factor registering 952 deals worth $330.8 billion,” the report said.

But it’s not only U.S. companies that seem to be consolidating in their own market. Domestic activity was also particularly strong in China, where firms spent $68.7 billion — this was the highest first quarter on record.

“Domestic M&A accounts for 85.2 percent of Chinese acquisitions in Q1 (first quarter) 2018, a significant increase from the 61.6 percent and 71.3 percent seen during 2016 and 2017,” Mergermarket said.