Mass General halts bid to acquire New Hampshire hospital after concerns from state attorney general

Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital halted a deal to acquire a New Hampshire-based hospital after concerns from the state's attorney general. (Massachusetts General Hospital)

Massachusetts General Hospital has stopped efforts to acquire Exeter Health Resources, a hospital in New Hampshire, after scrutiny from state and federal authorities.

Mass General announced the discontinuation Wednesday, ending a two-and-a-half-year effort to form a healthcare network alongside the New Hampshire seacoast region. It is the latest hospital deal nixed after scrutiny from authorities over competition concerns.

“While all the hospitals have worked in good faith during this time, they have been unable to find an agreeable resolution that would work in practice,” according to a release from Mass General.

The Boston-based health system signed a letter of intent in 2018 with Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in the seacoast region and Exeter Health Resources to create a healthcare network. Mass General had acquired Wentworth-Douglass back in 2018.

But the deal received scrutiny from the New Hampshire attorney general, Gordon MacDonald, who opposed the deal due to concerns that it could consolidate two competing hospitals.

“Based on our investigation, we have concluded that this transaction implicates our laws protecting free and fair competition and therefore threatens even higher health care costs to be borne by New Hampshire consumers,” according to a release back in September 2019.

Exeter, Mass General and Wentworth-Douglass issued a statement in response at the time it expected to be able to “demonstrate the many benefits of this transaction and that the concerns of the Attorney General’s office are wholly unfounded.”

The deal is the latest to fall through after concerns about lesser competition.

Tenet and Methodist Le Bonheur nixed a deal for Methodist to buy two Memphis, Tennessee-area hospitals from the major hospital chain. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued to halt the deal over concerns it would consolidate market share in the Memphis area and patients could face higher costs.

The FTC also launched a probe in 2019 into the impact of hospital consolidation on quality and costs for healthcare, illustrating that the government is likely to continue to ratchet up scrutiny of deals in the near future.