Nurses union calls on FTC to investigate sale of 5 Salt Lake City hospitals

National Nurses United released a letter Oct. 21 calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the proposed sale of five Steward Health Care hospitals in Salt Lake City to HCA Healthcare, citing concerns about increases in prices and decline in quality care. 

"HCA is already employing its high cost of care model, charging $582 for every $100 spent on the care, double what the average hospital charges in the region," the letter states.

"Those numbers are well above the national average for hospital charges of $417 for every $100 of their costs, according to an NNU research study late last year," a statement from the union said.

The union statement noted the $11 billion merger in the area between Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare and Colorado-based SCL Health and said hospital systems are treating the Mountain West region "as a potential cash cow."

Dan Clayton, assistant vice president of communications and public relations for HCA's Mountain Division, told Becker's in an email the system has engaged the appropriate regulatory agencies since announcing the intent to purchase the facilities.

"We proactively filed with the FTC to initiate the customary approval process associated with this transaction and until that process is complete, the five Steward facilities will continue to operate separately from MountainStar Healthcare’s eight Utah hospitals," he wrote.

Mr. Clayton added the system doesn't expect the "transaction to affect the amount patients pay for care," noting that prices are "largely dependent on the type of insurance coverage." 

"We have managed care agreements with most of the major insurance plans in Utah, and patients with health plans are only responsible for their co-pays, deductibles, etc., according to their insurance plan," Mr. Clayton said.

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