FTC blasts another hospital merger

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking another strong stance, challenging the merger of ProMedica Health System in Toledo and St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee, both in Ohio. The FTC is arguing that ProMedica's acquisition of St. Luke's would create market dominance, and therefore, limit competition and drive up healthcare costs, reports the New York Times.

In March, a federal district judge ordered a preliminary injunction on the consolidation until the FTC could look into the deal further.

The FTC currently is taking hundreds of hours of testimony to demonstrate what it says is anticompetitive behavior, according to the article. For example, the merger would advance ProMedica's dominant position in the inpatient hospital services market from 47 percent to 58 percent, as well as raise its share of inpatient obstetrical services from 71 percent to 80 percent.

ProMedica, on the other hand, said that it would invest $35 million into the ailing St. Luke's, according to the NYT.

"The joinder has enabled St. Luke's, an organization that was in financial distress, to continue to fulfill its mission of providing care for the community. The joinder will provide tremendous benefits to the community, including increasing patients' access to care, enhancing clinical integration and creating efficiencies in delivering care," said ProMedica in a statement in January.

In addition, ProMedica in the statement implied that current care collaboration efforts under healthcare reform motivates this merger and others like it.

"This action by the FTC is inconsistent with the integration and coordination that healthcare reform both encourages and requires," said ProMedica.

The FTC's challenge to the Ohio merger follows the ongoing battle in Georgia between the regulatory agency and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and HCA-owned Palmyra Medical Center. Phoebe's CEO called FTC's objections "meddling," as the hospital requests the court of appeals clear the way for purchase.

For more:
- check out the NYT article
- read the FTC March press release
- here's the judgment summary on the injunction

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