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Why one hospital merger could be off limits to the FTC

A new bill in the West Virginia legislature would allow the merger between Cabell Huntington (W.Va.) Hospital and Huntington-based St. Mary's Medical Center to go through without approval from the Federal Trade Commission.

The state Senate bill would exempt the actions of the West Virginia Health Care Authority and any actions of hospitals and health systems under the authority's jurisdiction from state and federal antitrust laws, according to The Herald-Dispatch.

This is good news for Cabell Huntington and St. Mary's, as the FTC moved last November to block their proposed merger.

West Virginia Sen. Bob Plymale (D-Wayne), one of the sponsors of the bill, said the decision whether the two hospitals should merge should not be made in Washington, according to the report.

This is not the first time a state has attempted to escape the FTC's oversight. In 2013, the FTC won a Supreme Court case on the issue. In that lawsuit, Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany, Ga., argued its purchase of Palmyra Medical Center in Albany was immune to FTC scrutiny because Georgia law authorized county hospitals to make acquisitions. The high court held there was no affirmatively expressed policy in Georgia that allowed hospital authorities to make acquisitions that substantially lessen competition, according to The Herald-Dispatch.

More articles on hospital mergers:

Wellmont, Mountain States Health Alliance move forward with merger
Akron General CEO says Cleveland Clinic merger saved hospital
Jefferson and Kennedy Health explore merger

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