LCMC can't close any HCA hospitals it acquired, judge rules

As legal battles between LCMC Health and the federal government play out, a judge ruled the New Orleans-based system cannot close any of the three hospitals it purchased from Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare in January, reported April 24. 

Under the April 21 ruling from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, LCMC cannot terminate any service line at the three Tulane hospitals it acquired, though is allowed to "shift clinical services among LCMC facilities and the Tulane Hospitals if such changes are necessary to provide safe patient care." 

The ruling came in response to the Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit filed April 20 against the health system over antitrust concerns surrounding LCMC's $150 million purchase of three hospitals from HCA. A day earlier, LCMC sued the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, seeking clarification on whether Louisiana's acquisition approval can preempt federal merger review. 

Louisiana is one of about 20 states that gives the state the authority to greenlight hospital mergers under the certificate of public advantage process, according to The state's attorney general signed off on the deal in December. The FTC, however, said LCMC should have sought approval from federal regulators before going through with the acquisition of New Orleans-based Tulane Medical Center; Covington, La.-based Lakeview Regional Medical Center; and Metairie, La.-based Tulane Lakeside Hospital.

The deal leaves the New Orleans area with two hospital operators: LCMC and Ochsner Health. The central legal issue for courts to decide is not whether the deal will create unfair competition in the market, but whether LCMC should have submitted plans to the FTC for a "premerger review." 

Ms. Jackson's April 21 ruling applies until at least the first round of legal issues are resolved, which could take years, according to 

Health system mergers and acquisitions have faced increased scrutiny under the Biden administration. The case between LCMC and the FTC "will almost certainly have significant ramifications for health system mergers nationwide," healthcare attorney Mark Cunningham told the news outlet. 

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