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Cabell Huntington Hospital to acquire St. Mary's in West Virginia

Merger needs approval from the Vatican and FTC could still weigh in.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The West Virginia Health Care Authority has decided to give its blessing to Cabell Huntington Hospital's acquisition of St. Mary's Medical Center, but the merger still needs the approval of a higher authority: the Vatican.

The Health Care Authority gave its approval after completing a review process, according to a statement from CHH. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey concurred in the decision. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The state legislature had passed a law earlier this year exempting the hospital merger from state and federal antitrust laws if it was approved by the agency.

The approvals move the acquisition another step closer to fruition, but it won't be finalized until it gets approval from the Vatican.

In addition, under a previously entered order, the Federal Trade Commission will have 14 days to consider whether or not it will reinstitute proceedings before an FTC administrative law judge, resulting from its prior complaint that the move violates federal and state antitrust laws.

Last year, the FTC blocked Cabell Huntington Hospital from acquiring St. Mary's Medical Center, located three miles away, saying the merger would create a near monopoly leading to higher prices and lower quality of care.

[Also: FTC blocks merger of two West Virginia hospitals]

Kevin Fowler, president and CEO of CHH, said in a statement that the approvals "are important milestones in the regulatory approval process," and said consumers can expect "a higher level of specialized care and enhanced quality" without excessive costs.

"We are confident that the new legislation meets all of the requirements established by the United States Supreme Court to place approval of the transaction with West Virginians who understand our state and its healthcare needs," said Fowler.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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