- Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey's largest health system, is "weighing the next steps" after losing an appeal in federal court on Tuesday to overturn an injunction barring its acquisition of Englewood Hospital, the company said in a statement.
- The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling, blocking a tie-up between Hackensack and Englewood, one of the last independent hospitals in the area.
- The federal appeals court said the FTC, which sought to stop the merger, has a strong case, and added "the District Court did not err in holding that the Hospitals failed to rebut...that the merger is likely to substantially lessen competition."
The ruling comes as the Biden administration has promised to crack down on consolidation, particularly in the healthcare sector.
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission sued to block the tie-up between Hackensack and Englewood. The FTC alleged the two were close competitors and together would control half of the acute care hospitals in Bergen County, New Jersey's most populous county.
Last year, a lower court sided with the FTC and granted the agency a preliminary injunction to prevent the deal from moving forward until the FTC's own administrative proceedings were complete. Hackensack appealed that ruling, sending the case up to the Third Circuit court, which was not swayed by the hospitals' arguments. The federal appeals court ruled in favor of the FTC and granted an injunction as well.
The agency that polices competition has argued that the union would leave insurers with few other options and consequences for patients.
"Hackensack Meridian Health would be able to demand higher rates from insurers for the combined entity’s services, which, in turn, may lead to higher insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket costs for plan members," the FTC said when announcing the challenge in 2020.
The FTC is fresh off a win in Rhode Island where the two largest health systems there are scrapping plans to merge following the agency's suit to block the deal alongside the state's attorney general.