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Missouri AG says proposed KU Health merger violates state law

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has penned a letter complicating a proposed merger between Liberty (Mo.) Hospital and the Kansas City-based University of Kansas Health System, The Kansas City Star reported Jan. 25. 

The letter, obtained by the Star, states that "clear conflicts" exist between Missouri and Kansas law that would elevate the proposed deal to an "interstate compact." Such compacts can only exist if both states agree to create one, so Liberty Hospital would need state approval to move forward. 

"A Missouri hospital district may not legally enter management services contract with a political subdivision or instrumentality of Kansas without approval from the Missouri General Assembly," Mr. Bailey wrote to Missouri lawmakers, including Senate President Pro Tempore Caleb Rowden and House Speaker Dean Plocher. 

Liberty Hospital's board voted to pursue the merger in October, and both parties inked a nonbinding letter of intent to merge in November. Liberty Hospital would benefit from the opportunity to broaden services and further patients' access to treatments and specialists; KU Health would benefit from the opportunity to grow its presence in Missouri. 

"We disagree with the Attorney General's assessment and welcome discussions as we continue due diligence toward final agreements with Liberty Hospital," a spokesperson for KU Health told Becker's. "We are committed to providing the very best health care to our region, as close to home as possible."

Next week, Missouri lawmakers will consider a bill — introduced by Sen. Greg Razer in December — that would block the partnership by barring hospital boards from partnering with health systems operated by another state's "institution of higher education" without voter approval. 

Kansas lawmakers introduced a bill Jan. 24 that would block the system from acquiring property in other states without legislative approval, according to the Star

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