New FTC Chair Off to a Fast Start
The National Law Journal
Edith Ramirez isn't wasting any time as the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission. She's been on the job just over a week, and the agency has already brought a series of cases in federal courts.
The latest came March 12, when the FTC announced it is filing suit to undo the already-consummated merger of an Idaho hospital and a physician's group. The action comes on the heels of eight consumer protection complaints filed in courts around the country last week. The FTC in those suits charged 29 defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts.
The antitrust suit, which is being brought in conjunction with the Idaho attorney general, targets the acquisition by St. Luke's Health System, Ltd. of Idaho's largest independent, multi-specialty physician practice group, Saltzer Medical Group P.A. The deal, which did not require pre-merger review because it fell below the Hart-Scott-Rodino threshold of $70.1 million, closed on December 31, 2012.
According to the FTC, the deal gives the combined entity the market power to demand higher rates for health care services provided by primary care physicians in Nampa, Idaho and surrounding areas, ultimately leading to higher costs for health care consumers.
The commission voted 4-0 to bring the case, which will be filed under seal in U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.
"St. Luke's acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group has created a dominant single provider of adult primary care physician services in Nampa, with a nearly 60 percent share of the market," said Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, in a news release. "The result of the acquisition will be higher prices for the services that those physicians provide, with costs ultimately passed on to Nampa employers and their employees."
This article originally appeared in The National Law Journal.