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United Kingdom Orders HCA to Sell 2 London Hospitals

The United Kingdom's Competition Commission has issued an order for Hospital Corporation of America to sell two of its hospitals in London due to a lack of competition.

HCA International is the overseas division of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA. It owns and operates six hospitals in central London as for-profit entities. The CC is an independent public body in the U.K. similar to the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. According to the CC's website, it conducts investigations to ensure mergers and markets operate under fair pricing and competition.

In a Jan. 16 decision, the CC said HCA must sell London Bridge Hospital and The Princess Grace Hospital, both located in the heart of London. The group said HCA, as well as two other private companies, "face little competition" in their respective areas, and this situation has led to higher prices for insured and self-pay patients in the areas.

"We've looked hard at how we can meet the challenging task of opening up this market to increased competition," said Roger Witcomb, chairman of the CC, said in a news release. "We're now proposing those measures which we believe will offer practical and effective ways of improving competition and ensuring private patients get a better deal. Requiring operators to sell hospitals is a big step, and we have focused on those areas where a sale will be effective in increasing competition — where a single operator owns a cluster of hospitals which face little rivalry."

HCA issued a statement, calling the CC's ruling "plainly wrong" and an "unjustified and unfair" remedy. HCA plans to fight the ruling.

"To forcibly divest hospitals from successful healthcare organizations cannot be good for either patients or our economy," said Mike Neeb, president and CEO of HCA International.

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