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HCA, Steward make for 2nd called-off hospital deal within days of FTC challenge

HCA Healthcare and Steward Health Care System have abandoned their proposed deal involving five Utah hospitals. The decision comes 13 days after the Federal Trade Commission challenged the transaction.

The FTC unanimously voted to file lawsuits June 2 to block two separate hospital transactions, one involving Saint Peter's Healthcare System and RWJBarnabas Health — two New Jersey health systems — and the other involving HCA and Steward. Saint Peter's and RWJBarnabas called off their proposed deal June 14.

"For the second time in a week, parties who proposed an anticompetitive hospital merger have called their deal off after the FTC filed a complaint to block the deal," FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova said in an agency statement. "This transaction, like the RWJBarnabas Health/Saint Peter's transaction that was abandoned two days ago, should never have been proposed in the first place. This should be a lesson learned to hospital systems all over the country and their counsel: The FTC will not hesitate to take action in enforcing the antitrust laws to protect healthcare consumers who are faced with unlawful hospital consolidation."

Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA announced plans to acquire five Utah hospitals from Dallas-based Steward Health Care in September. Under the proposed acquisition, the five hospitals would become part of HCA Healthcare's mountain division, which has 11 hospitals throughout Utah, Idaho and Alaska. 

The FTC alleged 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. By filing suit to challenge the deal, the transaction was halted pending an administrative proceeding with an administrative trial set to begin Dec. 13.

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