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Health policy wonks love this season of Downton Abbey

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Photo credit: 
PBS

This season, “Downton Abbey's” plot line has health policy wonks on the edge of their seats: a heated debate about hospital consolidation that closely parallels what’s going on in the U.S. health care system today.

If you’re not a Downton fan, here’s a quick plot recap by Kaiser Health News reporter Jenny Gold: It’s 1925 for the lords and ladies at Downton Abbey. Think flapper dresses, cocktail parties and women’s rights. And a big hospital in the nearby city of York is making a play to take over the Downton Cottage Hospital next to the posh estate.

As Maggie Smith’s character, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, sees it, “The Royal Yorkshire county hospital wants to take over our little hospital, which is outrageous!”

Stanford Health Policy’s Kathy McDonald — an unabashed fan of the popular PBS period piece — says things haven’t changed that much today. There has been an uptick in hospital consolidations since 2010, with about 100 taking place each year, she says.

You can listen to McDonald’s interview with Gold, who took the Downton debate to the American Public Media radio show, “Marketplace.”