11 states support FTC's challenge to Advocate-NorthShore merger

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, 11 state attorneys general backed the Federal Trade Commission's effort to block Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care and Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University HealthSystem's merger plans.

In a redacted order issued June 14, U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso denied the FTC's request to block the proposed merger. He said the government did not provide enough evidence that the partnership would harm competition in the region. The FTC appealed the federal judge's decision. 

In their brief filed Friday, the AGs of Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington ask the appeals court to overturn Judge Alonso's order. The AGs argue that the lower court's analysis of the geographic market was flawed. "The legal standard applied by the district court is erroneous and would lead to an unduly broad geographic market that does not reflect the North Shore area's market realities," the brief states.

The AGs further contend that if the district court's decision stands, it will set a "dangerous legal precedent with far-reaching policy implications," as health systems across the nation will aggressively pursue partnerships and use the decision to assert that consolidation will have a minimal effect on competition. Courts that follow this precedent will grossly underestimate the anticompetitive effects of certain transactions, according to the brief. 

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