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US: Appeals court backs FTC order to unwind hospital merger

 |  April 23, 2014

A federal appeals court unanimously sided with the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to order the undoing of a hospital merger in Ohio, a decision that may heighten tension among the healthcare community over antitrust disputes.

The dispute began when nonprofit healthcare system ProMedica, at the time dominant in its jurisdiction, signed a deal to acquire community hospital St. Luke’s in 2010. The FTC moved to block the deal, however, on grounds that ProMedica could potentially increase healthcare costs.

Following ProMedica’s appeal of the ruling, the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio backed the FTC, ruling Tuesday that “the Commission had every reason to conclude that, as ProMedica’s dominance in the relevant markets increases … so too does ProMedica’s leverage in demanding higher rates.”

While FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez praised Tuesday’s decision, ProMedica vowed to appeal, going so far as to proclaim it is willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to defend the merger, which it says aids the area by saving the struggling hospital.

Disputes between the healthcare industry and the FTC have reached new heights in recent months, as another, non-related case did reached SCOTUS. In that case, the Supreme Court also backed the FTC in its decision to block the proposed merger of the only two hospitals in their jurisdiction in Georgia.

The disagreement centered on whether state-level industry regulators, which approved of the merger, overruled antitrust rules.

Full Content: Toledo Blade

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