- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Cabell Huntington Hospital is one step closer to acquiring St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The Herald-Dispatch reports (https://bit.ly/1nVycMR) the West Virginia Health Care Authority on Wednesday granted a certificate of need, meaning the authority deems the combination of the two Huntington hospitals is needed and consistent with the state’s health care goals.

Cabell Huntington announced the acquisition more than a year ago.

The two hospitals separately are the largest employers in Huntington, with nearly 5,000 employees between them. They are also each among the top ten largest employers in the state.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the merger in November, saying it would raise costs and lower health care quality by creating a monopoly. An administrative hearing on the complaint is scheduled for April in Washington.

The state Health Care Authority differed with the FTC’s interpretation. In its written decision, it said, “the proposed project will reduce duplication, increase efficiency, quality, and coordination of care and allow for greater recruitment of professionals, promoting more effective management of population health, enhancing existing programs of health science education, all while maintaining and potentially expanding access to essential acute services to West Virginia residents.”

Steel of West Virginia opposes the merger. President and CEO Timothy Duke said in a statement emailed to the newspaper that the Health Care Authority was supposed to consider the consolidation’s impact on the consumer and whether better alternatives exist.

“However, the health care authority would not require the hospitals to identify other bidders,” Duke said. “How does the health care authority know if other bidders are superior alternatives if the health care authority does not even know the identity of the other bidders?”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have passed a bill that would exempt the acquisition from state and federal antitrust laws, which are the basis of the FTC’s complaint. The bill is still awaiting action by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, https://www.herald-dispatch.com

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