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FTC, Rhode Island AG will sue to block Lifespan, Care New England merger

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha has denied the application for the proposed merger between Lifespan and Care New England and said he will join the Federal Trade Commission in filing a lawsuit challenging the deal, The Boston Globe reported Feb. 17.

Mr. Neronha said in his decision that he is denying the deal because it would raise healthcare costs, according to the Globe.

The proposed merger, in partnership with Brown University, would create the Rhode Island Academic Health Care System.

Mr. Neronha said the merger would give the new system 80 percent of the market's hospital beds and ownership of eight of the state's 13 hospitals.

"If this extraordinary and unprecedented level of control and consolidation were allowed to go forward, nearly all Rhode Islanders would see their healthcare costs go up, for healthcare that is lower in quality and harder to access, and Rhode Island's healthcare workers would be harmed," Mr. Neronha said in his decision.

Mr. Neronha made the decision ahead of schedule; he had until March 16 to decide, according to the Globe.

Leaders of the two health systems have said that the merger would give the organizations "stronger financial footing," and unions representing the systems' workers also have expressed support for the deal, according to the Globe. Others have raised concerns about the deal, including South County Health CEO and President Aaron Robinson, who told The Public's Radio that the merger would give the systems too much power. 

Leaders of the systems shared a news release with Becker's on Feb. 17 expressing their disappointment in the attorney general and FTC's decision.

"Of course, we are disappointed, but I will say that we can truly know that we did everything we could over the past few years of hard work to get this done," James Fanale, MD, president and CEO of Care New England, said. "We thought it was the right thing to do, but now we will need to move on to a new path forward."

"We are extremely disappointed by the decision of the FTC, as we know that the status quo will not well serve the healthcare needs of the people of Rhode Island," said Lawrence Aubin Sr., chair of Lifespan's board of directors. "We are committed to continued work to meet those needs now and into the future."

Read more here.

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