UPDATE: June 7, 2022: Steward Health Care System said it is deeply disappointed by the Federal Trade Commission's decision to challenge its sale to HCA Healthcare in Utah. Steward said the FTC has misread the "pro-competitive potential" of the deal and alleges the agency's analysis is based on "antiquated methods." The system will continue to advocate strongly for the sale. "We are exploring a variety of options and upon further review, we will make a determination regarding the next steps," Steward said in a Monday statement to Healthcare Dive.
- The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block two separate hospital mergers, the agency said Thursday.
- The FTC has sued to block HCA Healthcare's acquisition of Steward Health Care System, alleging that the deal would reduce competition in Utah and ultimately raise prices.
- In another suit, the FTC is moving to block RWJBarnabas Health from acquiring Saint Peter's Healthcare in New Jersey, alleging "overwhelming evidence" that the deal would harm patients in the form of less choice and higher prices.
The FTC has now challenged numerous hospital deals this year following its latest action.
New Jersey's largest health system, Hackensack Meridian Health, lost its appeal challenging the FTC's move to prevent a tie-up with Englewood Hospital, one of the last independent hospitals in the area.
FTC commissioners voted unanimously to block the latest merger deals.
In Utah, HCA and Steward vigorously compete with one another, FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova said in a Thursday statement. HCA and Steward are the second and fourth largest healthcare systems in the Wasatch Front region, the area surrounding Salt Lake City, the FTC said.
HCA, one of the nation's largest hospital operators, announced plans to acquire Steward's entire Utah footprint last September, adding to HCA's presence in the West.
"If these companies merge, this competition will be lost, and Steward will no longer be available to patients as a low-cost provider in this region,” Vedova said.
In New Jersey, a tie-up between RWJBarnabas and Saint Peter's would eliminate head-to-head competitors, the FTC said.
“There is overwhelming evidence that this acquisition would be bad for patients, because the parties would no longer have to compete to provide the lowest prices and the best quality and service,” Vedova said in a separate statement released Thursday.
The Biden administration has vowed to crack down on healthcare consolidation. The President signed an executive order in July calling on antitrust regulators to vigorously enforce competition laws.