Markus H. Meier is the new acting director of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Competition, replacing Abbott (Tad) Lipsky, who served as acting director since February. Lipsky, who also served on President Donald Trump's transition team for the FTC, retired on July 3.
Meier served as acting deputy director of the Bureau of Competition since November 2015 and led the Health Care division within the Bureau of Competition since 2006.
He has nearly 30 years of experience in antitrust and served in private practice and the U.S. Army.
Meier’s healthcare background means he enters the job not needing to learn the industry. The division that he led for 11 years investigated the business activities of physicians and health professionals and reviewed mergers involving healthcare products and services.
His healthcare experience may play a key role in proposed healthcare mergers. Federal government officials like the Bureau of Competition have taken a greater interest in the healthcare industry as hospitals and health systems look to merge, purchase or even divest facilities.
Recent examples of Bureau of Competition challenges include Sanford Health’s merger with Mid Dakota Clinic. The FTC and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem asked a federal district court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop a proposed merger “until the FTC has completed an administrative hearing that will determine the legality of the transaction and any appropriate remedies.”
The FTC’s concerns stem from Sanford Health and Mid Dakota Clinic being the two largest providers of adult primary care physician services, pediatric services, OB-GYN services, general surgery and outpatient surgical services in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
Earlier this year in Illinois, the FTC helped spike a potential merger of Advocate Health Care and Northshore University Health System, which would have created the largest nonprofit health system in Illinois.
While the FTC turns its attention on healthcare, some industry leaders say the mergers are actually helping contain healthcare costs. The American Hospital Association (AHA) reported earlier this year that hospital mergers between 2009 and 2014 led to cost savings and quality improvements. The AHA said mergers also increased efficiencies and allowed hospitals to expand its services.
It’s already been an active year for healthcare M&A. Just this week, Community Health Systems announced the sale of nine more hospitals. Last month, two South Carolina health systems, Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System, announced a new nonprofit company that will combine the two systems into one 13-hospital company with 1.2 million patients and $3.9 billion in annual net revenue. The merger will create South Carolina’s largest health system, as well as its biggest private employer with more than 28,000 employees and 2,800 physicians.
While health systems look for scale, expect FTC’s Bureau of Competition to remain glued to the industry to make sure mergers don’t remove competition and raise healthcare prices. Naming a new acting director with a healthcare background may further shine a light on future mergers in the healthcare industry.