Monday, July 14, 2003

Antitrust News: A Rare Occurrence

Once in awhile, the FTC actually quits while they're ahead:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to close its antitrust investigation of Vista Health, the joint venture of two Waukegan hospitals, according to Vista attorney Laura Martin.

The FTC began its inquiry after the venture was accused by insurers three years ago of violating antitrust law by seeking substantial rates hikes before fully consolidating the hospitals' operations. The FTC is now acknowledging, Ms. Martin says, that Provena St. Therese Medical Center, one of the hospitals, would have raised rates with or without a merger and that the increases were not as high as those of other merged hospitals under investigation. The other hospital in the venture is Victory Memorial Hospital.
The important fact to take from this story is that insurers went to the FTC to settle what is nothing more than a normal business dispute over prices. Wouldn't it be nice if any business could do that—agree to a price increase then ask federal regulators to undo it because it "violates the antitrust laws"?

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