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FTC asks judge to halt acquisition of New Jersey hospital system

The Federal Trade Commission is asking a federal judge to stop Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health's acquisition of Englewood (N.J.) Health during the agency's antitrust challenge, according to Law360

The FTC argued in its preliminary injunction request that it believes it can prove the deal would unlawfully restrict competition in one of New Jersey's most populated counties. The FTC said it can prove the two entities "vigorously compete against each other."

The FTC filed an administrative complaint Dec. 3 and filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to halt the transaction. 

The FTC argued in its antitrust challenge that the two organizations would reduce competition in Bergen County, N.J., as they would own half of the six acute care hospitals in the county. 

"This acquisition would give the combined hospital system increased bargaining leverage, likely leading to increased prices," said Ian Conner, director of the FTC's bureau of competition in December when filing the complaint. "The transaction would also remove the competitive pressures that have driven these hospitals to invest in quality improvements to the benefit of patients."

The administrative trial is scheduled for June 15.

Hackensack Meridian and Englewood Health said in a statement to Becker's Hospital Review that they will "vigorously defend the merger" during the upcoming hearing and work to further demonstrate the benefits the two health systems will achieve together.

Hackensack Meridian and Englewood Health said that together the organizations will be able to invest in more programs to support the wellbeing of community members, increase access to routine, tertiary and quaternary inpatient care, and achieve cost efficiencies and improved affordability for patients and payers. 

"In December 2020, we were very disappointed to learn that the Federal Trade Commission had filed an action to challenge the proposed merger between Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood Health. This challenge by the FTC continued even with the approval of the merger by the New Jersey Office of Attorney General and New Jersey Department of Health," a joint statement from Hackensack Meridian and Englewood Health reads.

"The decision to pursue the merger was made in September 2019 when both organizations signed a definitive agreement to merge. We continue to firmly believe that this merger is in the best interest of our patients and the communities at large. During the upcoming hearing before the Honorable John Michael Vazquez this week, we will vigorously defend the merger, which will give us the opportunity to further demonstrate the benefits Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood Health will achieve together," the statement continued. 

Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:20 p.m. to include a statement from Hackensack Meridian and Englewood Health.

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