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FTC poised to thwart more hospital mergers

The Federal Trade Commission's new majority is primed to more aggressively combat consolidation in the healthcare industry after successfully challenging four hospital mergers, according to a July 18 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In June, RWJBarnabas Health, which operates 12 hospitals, scrapped its acquisition of St. Peter’s Healthcare System, which runs one hospital for adults and children in New Jersey. Additionally, in June, HCA Healthcare, which operates 182 hospitals, halted its acquisition of five Steward Health Care System hospitals in Utah shortly after the FTC filed a lawsuit to block the transaction, claiming it would raise prices and lower the quality of care.

Mark Seidman, assistant director in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said that the FTC is a pivotal way to slow healthcare cost increases. 

"We are feeling invigorated and looking to fulfill the executive order’s call to be aggressive on antitrust enforcement," Mr. Seidman said. 

Although hospital mergers were supposed to improve cost efficiency, experts agree that the creation of huge conglomerates and hospital networks has driven up U.S. medical costs, which are by far the highest in the world, according to the report. 

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