FTC uses leverage to step up antitrust scrutiny

Fresh from their crackdown on an Illinois hospital merger, the FTC and Department of Justice seem to be stepping up their scrutiny of such mergers elsewhere in the U.S. The targeted health system, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, last week filed a plan outlining how it would address issues arising from a merger with Highland Park (IL) Hospital. Now, hospitals fear that it's not going to be alone.

While Evanston could still appeal the FTC's decision in the matter, the agency's get-tough stance is already emerging in antitrust reviews in at least three other mergers. Mergers in the cross-hairs include Hackley Health's planned merger with Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon, MI, Care New England Health System with Life-Span, both in Providence, RI and Baptist Health System of East Tennessee with St. Mary's Health System in Knoxville, TN. 

However, some observers say that the Evanston decision won't necessarily preclude these mergers. In that case, the FTC did a highly unusual retrospective review of an existing deal, and in these cases, the mergers are still pending. Meanwhile, observers say, the FTC and the Justice Department have been losing similar cases in federal courts.

To learn more about the FTC's actions:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece

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