Court approves antitrust settlement, capping Geisinger's stake in 132-bed hospital

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A U.S. district court on Sept. 16 approved an antitrust settlement agreement between the Justice Department, Geisinger and Evangelical Community Hospital, according to The Daily Item.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania's approval finalizes a settlement reached March 3 resolving an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in August 2020.

The Justice Department's lawsuit challenged Danville, Pa.-based Geisigner's plan to acquire a 30 percent ownership stake in Evangelical Community Hospital, a 132-bed hospital in Lewisburg, Pa. In the lawsuit, prosecutors said Geisinger and Evangelical are close competitors for inpatient care and the deal would "fundamentally" alter the relationship between the two organizations and reduce incentives to compete.

As part of the approved settlement, Geisinger must cap its ownership interest in Evangelical at 7.5 percent and can't add ownership later. The agreement also restricts Geisinger from providing loans or another line of credit to Evangelical. Geisinger is prohibited from exerting any control over Evangelical's expenses, and both organizations must implement an antitrust compliance program.

"We are very pleased with today's ruling," Kendra Aucker, president and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital, told the Item. "The agreement is truly in the best interest of the communities our healthcare organizations serve and it reaffirms our ability to remain an independent, community hospital."

The minority investment will help support Evangelical's patient room, modernization and enhancement project and support Evangelical's transition to an integrated EHR. 

"We have always felt that our investment in Evangelical Community Hospital fostered healthy competition and helped improve our region's access to high-quality, affordable care," Matt Walsh, executive vice president and COO at Geisinger, told the Item. "We look forward to our continued progress on projects that benefit the health and wellbeing of our patients and the community at large."

Read more here.

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