Health and Science

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Next step for Obamacare?

Obamacare-driven consolidation among health insurers won't lead to higher costs, Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove said Friday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a victory to the president and the supporters of his landmark law.

"The consolidation is actually not going to be able to raise the price of anybody who gets Medicare and Medicaid because those are already fixed prices," Cosgrove told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in an interview. "By and large, it's not going to be able to essentially raise the prices very much," because of the decreasing number of people who are covered by private insurance.

The nation's highest court ruled Thursday to uphold subsidies for millions of Americans served by the federal insurance marketplace.

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With a big question mark hanging over Obamacare lifted, "you're going to see the managed care companies ... looking for more scale," Thomas Carroll, health-care provider analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, told CNBC.

Even though mergers by big insurances companies may leave the industry with fewer national players, there are enough smaller regional insurance options to satisfy any concerns about anti-competitiveness from government regulators, Carroll said.

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In addition to seeing insurers combine in the hopes of cutting costs, Cosgrove sees hospitals consolidating, as well.

"About two-thirds of the hospitals are [already] part of a system," he said. "With about 25 percent of hospitals in the United States now running in the red, you're going to find that they're going to be looking for shelter some place and trying to join some sort of a system."

"The insurance companies, I think, are going to have tremendous leverage over the hospitals," said Cosgrove, explaining that insurers will be able to demand that hospitals lower their cost for care. That won't leave hospitals much room to raise prices, he said, because "so much of it is determined by what the federal government does."

But Dr. Scott Gottlieb, resident fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told CNBC it's only a matter of time before health insurance costs to consumers go higher.

"Health insurance costs [to consumers] haven't gone up because the plans are being hollowed out," he said—arguing people are getting less coverage than they used to before Obamacare.

"Eventually the rising costs because of the monopolization of the hospitals is going to catch up," said Gottlieb, who served as an advisor at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2004.

CMS, a division of the Health and Human Services Department, is responsible for government health-care programs, including Obamacare.