Monday, August 11, 2003

Antitrust News: More Hospital Trouble

I can already see the battle lines being drawn at the FTC over this deal:
Baptist Health South Florida has reached an agreement to buy Doctors' Hospital of Coral Gables, giving the nonprofit health giant its sixth medical center in South Florida and making it Miami-Dade County's biggest employer.

The deal, announced Friday, would extend Baptist Health's coverage area from northern Monroe County into Coral Gables and boost its Miami-Dade workforce to more than 9,800 employees. The acquisition would give Baptist Health more leverage in negotiating agreements with insurance providers, doctors and suppliers.

Mercy Hospital, which lost out on the bidding for Doctors', said it would challenge the sale.

''We do not believe that this transaction is in the best interest of the community and will result in higher healthcare costs to employers and consumers,'' John E. Matuska, Mercy president and chief executive, said in a statement.
Mercy isn't alone in their displeasure. Baptist beat out Mercy and six other bidders. Those losing bidders will likely provide the FTC (or DOJ) with grist for the antitrust mill. That's how it works in antitrust: when you lose in market competition, you get the government to rewrite the rules after the fact or simply declare the initial competition was "unfair" because the bigger company won.

Another possibly important fact: the city of Coral Gables will lose $1.2 million in property taxes under this deal, because Baptist, a nonprofit corporation, is acquiring a currently for-profit hospital. Don't think that won't contribute to a possible federal antitrust prosecution.

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