Hospital-doctor merger undone in ruling

Judge rules for FTC in antitrust case

Dale Grimes, an attorney with Nashville, Tenn.-based firm Bass, Berry & Sims, agrees that this case is an indicator that the likelihood of federal antitrust challenges will be going up and healthcare organizations are being put on notice that they will have to make the best case that can be made for why an acquisition is necessary to achieve better quality care and efficiencies rather than some other integration model.

“I think it’s a case that shows that just saying the Affordable Care Act and healthcare reform generally requires healthcare companies to grow and consolidate to this extent … is not necessarily in and of itself a winning argument,” Grimes said. “There are going to need to be other things that show where they take into account the efficiencies and the benefits to the system that are pre-competitive.”

The judge released to the parties’ attorneys a larger document detailing his conclusions. The document was temporarily sealed to allow the parties to ensure no potentially sensitive material is released to the public. But once those documents are unsealed, it would behoove healthcare organizations considering acquisitions to study them for guidance, said Grimes and Ettinger.

Once administrators at St. Luke’s are able to have access to Winmill’s more detailed conclusions, they will have a better understanding of how they should approach an appeal, said Neuhoff.

In the meantime, St. Luke’s is hoping to maintain status quo pending an appeal, although no stay pending appeal has been filed yet, she said.