- The planned merger of Illinois health systems Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem is on hold after the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit to block it last week.
- The commission argued the merger would reduce competition in northern Cook and Lake counties, the "North Shore area" of Chicago, by allowing the combined hospital chains to dominate more than 50% of the area's inpatient services.
- Advocate and NorthShore responded with a joint statement regarding their intention to fight the challenge.
Much of the debate circles around what the hospitals and the FTC each define as the regional market, the Chicago Tribune notes.
The systems argue they compete in a six-county market with about 75 hospitals, which would leave them a combined total of 22% of the area's inpatient beds--a far different picture than the FTC paints.
"The FTC's definition of the geographic market is a bit of a mystery," NorthShore CEO and president Mark Neaman told the Tribune. "We've never seen anything quite like it."
An additional point in the case is the two health systems attempted to relieve antitrust concerns by agreeing to price caps, but were rejected.
The FTC argues the supposed cost savings and quality improvements the systems say would result from a merger are unsubstantiated and not shown to be merger-specific.