Swedish, Providence affiliation to face antitrust review, abortion challenges

The proposed affiliation between secular Swedish Health Services and the Catholic Providence Health & Services, both based in Washington, has drawn the attention of federal and state agencies for potential antitrust issues, as well as public scrutiny over women's reproductive rights and end-of-life issues.

Federal and state agencies will be taking a closer look to see if the Swedish-Providence partnership will create an anticompetitive market, reported HeraldNet on Friday. With the two large organizations joining forces, federal and state officials worry that the alliance could create market dominance. For example in Snohomish County, the two largest hospitals are operated by either Swedish or Providence, according to the article.

The affiliation will be under review from either the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice, said FTC spokesman Mitch Katz in the article. The partnership also may face scrutiny by the state attorney general's office and the state Department of Health.

In addition to antitrust issues under the microscope, critics of the Swedish-Providence affiliation worry that Swedish will adopt Catholic policies that would limit reproductive services, such as abortion, and end-of-life services. In response, Swedish announced it will outsource elective abortions by funding a new Planned Parenthood clinic next to one of its hospitals, according to a Crosscut article yesterday.

"Swedish is deeply committed to ensuring women have access to comprehensive care," said Dr. Jane Ulhir, Swedish's medical director, in the article.

Swedish said it will remain secular after the affiliation.  

Providence operates 27 hospitals in five states, and Swedish has five hospitals in the Washington area. Under the partnership, both organizations would keep their own names, according to the HeraldNet article. Their combined revenue is $3.4 billion.

For more information:
- read the HeraldNet article
- read the Crosscut article

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