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HCA's deal to buy 5 hospitals halted

HCA Healthcare inked a deal in September to acquire five Utah hospitals from Steward Health Care. The transaction is on hold after a judge issued a temporary restraining order to pause the deal at the request of the Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg Law reported June 7. 

The FTC filed a lawsuit last week to block the deal. The agency requested a temporary restraining order to give the court time to consider a preliminary injunction that would block the merger pending an administrative trial that is set to begin in December. The ruling June 6 prevents Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare and Dallas-based Steward Health Care from finalizing the deal until 10 days after the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah rules on the FTC's preliminary injunction request, according to Bloomberg Law

"Absent a preliminary injunction, defendants would be able to consummate the proposed transaction before the FTC and defendants have completed the administrative proceeding," the agency wrote in the complaint, according to the report. 

When the deal was announced last year, HCA Healthcare CEO Sam Hazen said the addition of the five Utah hospitals would help HCA "improve healthcare network options for patients and enable investments in services to meet increasing demand for healthcare." 

The FTC claims the acquisition would eliminate the second and fourth largest healthcare systems in Utah's Wasatch Front region, where approximately 80 percent of the state's residents live. Steward and HCA "keep costs down for consumers by competing vigorously with each other," and the proposed acquisition would eliminate that competition, the FTC said. 

The administrative trial in December will determine whether the proposed deal would violate sections of the Sherman and Clayton acts, according to the report. 

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