FTC files lawsuit to block Utah healthcare merger

The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that it is filing a lawsuit to stop HCA Healthcare, which operates MountainStar Healthcare in Utah, from acquiring five Steward Health Care hospitals in the state. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that it is filing a lawsuit and an administrative complaint against a health care merger in Utah.

HCA Healthcare, known as MountainStar Healthcare in Utah, announced that it acquired all five Utah hospitals from Steward Health Care System in September. The FTC, however, is trying to stop the merger, which it says would eliminate competition in the Wasatch Front region.

“As the second and fourth largest health care systems in Utah’s Wasatch Front region, which surrounds Salt Lake City, HCA Healthcare and Steward Health Care System help reduce costs for consumers by competing vigorously,” the FTC said. Holly Vedova, director of the Competition Bureau, in a statement.

Vedova said competition between the two companies leads to both lower prices and innovative services that would be lost after a merger. The FTC statement indicates that HCA Healthcare and Steward Health Care System are competing for the inclusion of the insurer network, quality of health care and nurses and doctors.

Steward Health Care is currently a low-cost competitor for general inpatient acute care hospital services, and a merger could change that. The FTC said a merger would allow HCA to raise its rates, and some of that cost would be passed on to employers and health plan members through increased premiums, deductibles, and fees. expenses.

According to the release, the FTC voted unanimously to grant the request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would stop the merger until the lawsuit is resolved. An administrative trial is due to begin on December 13.

A public version of the lawsuit is not yet available.

When announcing the acquisition agreement, HCA Healthcare said the additional facilities would help them meet growing healthcare needs in Utah.

“We believe the addition of these facilities will help us improve healthcare network options for patients and enable investment in services to meet growing healthcare demands. We look forward to welcoming them to the HCA Healthcare family,” said CEO Sam Hazen.

Steward Health Care-owned hospitals in the state include Davis Hospital in Layton, Jordan Valley Medical Center in West Jordan, Jordan Valley Medical Center-West Valley Campus, Mountain Point Medical Center in Lehi, and the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

HCA Healthcare’s MountainStar hospitals in Utah include Brigham City Community Hospital, Cache Valley Hospital in North Logan, Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, Lone Peak Hospital in Draper, Mountain View Hospital-Payson, Ogden Regional Medical Center , St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem.

Another Utah healthcare system completed its own merger in April, with Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare joining Colorado hospital system SCL Health, making Intermountain the 11th healthcare system US nonprofit. Intermountain officials said the combined companies employed more than 59,000 people, operated 33 hospitals and 385 clinics in seven states, and insured 1 million people in Utah and Idaho.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers court and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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