On Thursday, the FTC moved to block a merger between HCA Healthcare and Steward Health Care System, the second and fourth largest healthcare systems in the Wasatch Front region of Utah, in order to prevent the onset of anticompetitive practices in the Utah healthcare sector.
The agency argued that the merger would create a monopoly in a region that houses 80% of Utah’s residents in and around Salt Lake City. As of now, the agency said, these companies compete for “inclusion in insurer networks, and for health care quality, service lines, and nurse and physician recruitment” which helps keep costs down and improves the quality of care provided to the citizens of Utah.
According to the FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova, preventing this merger from happening will “help to keep costs down for consumers by competing vigorously with each other” which will “result i[n] lower prices and more innovative services for patients and their families.”
The FTC alleged that, if allowed to occur, the merger would reduce the number of healthcare systems that provide inpatient acute care services, increase market concentration levels and eliminate Steward as a low-cost healthcare provider. This would lead to “increased premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses” and less innovation in the field overall.
The FTC’s vote on pursuing this complaint for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction was unanimous.