FTC suspends challenge of West Virginia hospital merger

The Federal Trade Commission has halted its challenge to the merger between Cabell Huntington (W. Va.) Hospital and Huntington-based St. Mary's Medical Center while it reviews a new state law, according to TheHerald-Dispatch.

Cabell Huntington and St. Mary's began merger talks in 2014, and the FTC authorized action to block the deal last November. The FTC alleges the merger would substantially lessen competition for patients and inclusion in health plan networks.

To get around the FTC's challenge, West Virginia lawmakers proposed legislation allowing hospital deals approved by the West Virginia Health Care Authority and the state's attorney general to avoid state and federal antitrust laws. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the legislation into law earlier this month.

At the request of all parties, a federal judge has removed the FTC's complaint against the hospitals from adjudication for 30 days to give the FTC time to evaluate the new state law. The FTC will then decide whether to proceed with its challenge to the merger, according to the Herald-Dispatch.

The next hearing in the case is slated for April 25.

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