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Louisiana system can integrate 3 hospitals while FTC case plays out

A New Orleans federal judge is looking for a speedy resolution to the legal dispute between LCMC Health and the Federal Trade Commission that centers around the health system's acquisition of three Tulane University hospitals from Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare in January, nola.com reported July 6.

On July 6, the first time court appearance since dueling lawsuits were filed in mid-April, the federal judge presiding over the case set an Aug. 23 deadline for both sides to file written arguments laying out their case, according to nola.com. It was also decided that the FTC would not challenge LCMC's integration of the three hospitals into the health system while the court case plays out — an early win for LCMC. 

"LCMC Health is pleased to move forward with integration plans for our partnership with Tulane University — expanding access to specialty services and enhancing healthcare for all," LCMC said in a statement shared with Becker's. "This partnership will bring significant benefits to our community, and the entire region, and we are excited to continue at full speed."

The issue in the antitrust case is whether or not LCMC should have sought federal approval before finalizing its $150 million purchase of the three Louisiana hospitals — New Orleans-based Tulane Medical Center; Covington, La.-based Lakeview Regional Medical Center; and Metairie, La.-based Tulane Lakeside Hospital.

The FTC had ordered LCMC to halt the acquisition while it conducted a review, but the Louisiana legislature and state attorney general had "expressly and unequivocally authorized" the deal to go through, according to court documents obtained by Becker's.

Louisiana is one of about 20 states that gives the state the authority to greenlight hospital mergers under the certificate of public advantage process, according to nola.com. Because of this, LCMC argues in court documents that the acquisition is "indisputably immune" from federal antitrust laws.

The lawsuit is drawing national attention because of its potential implications for hospital transactions across the country at a time when the FTC is taking a harder look at healthcare consolidation and is pushing for more thorough reviews of mergers and acquisitions. 

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