INDIANAPOLIS — Hospital costs for Hoosiers are significantly higher compared to the U.S. average.

Indiana lawmakers met at the statehouse Thursday to talk about what’s causing the trend, and what can be done to reverse it.

This week, Forbes ranked Indiana as the 10th worst state for health care. Policy experts who gave testimony at Thursday’s Health Care Cost Oversight Committee meeting said hospital mergers that go under-regulated are part of the problem.

”There are serious concerns in a number of different markets where these mergers happen,” Dr. Brent Fulton, a health economist with UC Berkeley, said.

Dr. Fulton said hospital mergers in Indiana have led to a roughly 13% increase in in-patient prices due to a lack of competition.

”What’s more consistent across Indiana is the high prices, as compared to the U.S. average, particular high hospital prices,” Fulton said.

According to Fulton, Indiana has the authority to review non-profit hospital mergers, but that the state hasn’t challenged any within the past 10-15 years.

”In hindsight, yes, they should have been, some of them should have been scrutinized and challenged,” Fulton said.

Boosting the state’s authority to review mergers, restrict anti-competitive contracting, and increase price transparency could help lower costs according to Fulton. State Sen. Ed Charbonneau said while mergers have had an impact on costs, the state is already far down the road when it comes to hospital consolidation.

”We’re not going to be able to break up the system, we don’t want to do that,” Charbonneau said.

However, Charbonneau emphasized transparency is a key issue the committee hopes to tackle.

”The whole healthcare area seems to be fraught with a lack of transparency,” Charbonneau said.

The committee will hold its final meeting of the year on November 13. Charbonneau said he anticipates final recommendations will be ready by late 2024 or early 2025.