The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Hospital Association (AHA) led a major effort to convince Congress to not change how the federal government scrutinizes mergers.
The letter (PDF), also signed by biotech and technology groups, urges Congress to provide more resources to federal agencies for antitrust enforcement rather than make any changes to the legal and regulatory framework for evaluating deals. The letter, dated Tuesday, comes as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ramped up its scrutiny of hospital mergers over concerns they increase prices and decrease quality.
“Instead of adopting proposals with the high potential for unintended consequences to consumers markets and economic dynamism, Congress should ensure that the merger review process remains impartial,” the letter to leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees said.
The federal government already has enough power to review and challenge problematic deals.
“When the government chooses to intervene, it almost always wins,” the letter said. “With the additional funding Congress may allocate, the antitrust agencies will have the ability to scrutinize proposed mergers even more closely.”
The letter comes after lawmakers signaled a desire to heavily scrutinize mergers. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, introduced legislation back in February to update the legal standard for permissible mergers and implement other reforms to step up antitrust enforcement.
“Some have cast aspersions on the process and legal framework under which mergers are reviewed and suggested policies that could deeply chill mergers and acquisitions activity, economic growth and U.S. competitiveness,” the groups charged.
The hospital industry is also facing ramped-up scrutiny from the White House and the FTC.
President Joe Biden released an executive order back in July calling for the Justice Department and the FTC to review hospital merger guidelines.
Biden said at the time that mergers have left many areas without convenient and affordable healthcare.
The FTC has waded into more mergers recently but said last month that it is facing a backlog of reviews due to a “tidal wave” of deals.
A recent analysis from Kaufman Hall found that the actual number of deals is declining, adding up to only seven transactions in the third quarter. But the deals are of particularly high value, reflecting a trend of hospitals looking for strategic partners rather than to increase market share.