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Regulators should presume every hospital merger is anticompetitive, nurses say

National Nurses United is urging the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Justice Department to strengthen regulations and anticompetitive guidelines to healthcare mergers and acquisitions because of their effect on patients, nurses, other healthcare workers and communities.

The FTC and Justice Department should "presumptively consider any merger or acquisition in the healthcare sector, particularly hospital acquisitions, to be anticompetitive," Carmen Comsti, NNU lead regulatory policy specialist, wrote in a testimony to the FTC and Justice Department, according to an April 21 news release from the union.

Market power has been abused by large health systems, and private equity ownership tends to focus on profits rather than patient outcomes and safety, Ms. Comsti said. Healthcare market concentration also frequently leads to predatory price practices by insurance companies and other payers, she said.

The FTC and Justice Department started the process to change merger guidelines Jan. 18 and are seeking public comment on how to improve the guidelines. The public comment period ends April 21, according to the union's news release.

The American Hospital Association also urged that changes be made to the merger guidelines.

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