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New York hospitals scrapping merger is 'good news for patients and healthcare workers,' FTC says

The Federal Trade Commission has welcomed the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and Crouse Health System's decision to abandon their proposed merger, which it said would have left Syracuse with just two hospital systems — Upstate and St. Joseph's Health — and given the combined entity a 67 percent share of commercially insured inpatient services in Onondaga County.

"It is very good news for patients and healthcare workers in upstate New York that this proposed merger is not going to happen," Elizabeth Wilkins, director of the FTC's office of policy planning, said in a Feb. 16. news release. "The deal presented substantial risk of serious competitive and consumer harm in the form of higher healthcare costs, lower quality, reduced innovation, reduced access to care and depressed wages for hospital employees."

In its comment to the New York State Department of Health, the FTC opposed the neighboring hospitals' request to grant a certificate of public advantage, arguing that it could have shielded the planned merger from antitrust laws.

In 2017, the FTC began evaluating the effect of past COPAs on prices, quality, access and innovation for healthcare services, with research revealing significant increases in commercial inpatient prices and declines in quality of care.

The FTC said promoting healthcare competition remains a top priority, including preventing anticompetitive hospital mergers.

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