Federal Trade Commission Requests Documents Detailing Hospital Mergers
The Federal Trade Commission is "demanding" documents related to several mergers between major medical centers as part of its continuing efforts to step up inquiries into possible antitrust violations in the health care industry, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wysocki, Wall Street Journal, 9/26). Last month, FTC Chair Timothy Muris said the agency would increase its focus on past mergers involving health care providers to ensure that the arrangements benefit patients and do not simply result in higher profits. The increased scrutiny appears to have been prompted largely by a sharp rise in health care costs and a belief that recent mergers have given hospitals more clout in negotiating higher prices with health plans because of a lack of competition. As part of its initiative, the FTC has increased its spending on health care antitrust efforts by 50% (California Healthline, 8/9). Although Muris would not confirm any specific FTC investigations, the Journal reports the agency has issued a "civil investigative demand" -- similar to a subpoena -- to obtain documents relating to a January 2000 merger between Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Highland Park Hospital, two not-for-profit providers in the Chicago suburbs. FTC investigators have asked for documents from as early as 1998 that pertain to details of the merger and the operating specifics of the combined entity. The FTC has not filed an official antitrust complaint against the hospitals, according to Evanston Northwestern Senior Vice President David Loveland. Muris confirmed that the agency has yet to file any complaints and said it is "still in the early stages of studying several completed mergers," the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 9/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.