US: Judge slams FTC’s market definition in Advocate, NorthShore merger case

A federal judge denied the Federal Trade Commission’s request to temporarily block a merger between two Chicago-area health systems because the FTC didn’t correctly define the hospitals’ geographic market, according to the judge’s opinion released Monday.

Last week, US District Judge Jorge Alonso declined to grant the FTC a preliminary injunction to halt a merger between Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Alonso didn’t release his reasoning for the decision until Monday, to allow the parties time to ask for redactions of sensitive parts of the opinion. Alonso’s reasoning was eagerly anticipated, given that the loss was the second in a row for the FTC after years of scoring victories fighting mergers and acquisitions among hospitals, health systems and physician groups.

Alonso wrote in his opinion that he agreed with the hospital systems that the criteria the FTC’s expert used to define the systems’ geographic market were “flawed.” He wrote that he disagreed with the expert’s reasoning for excluding hospitals such as Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, University of Chicago Hospital, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Lurie Children’s Hospital.

He also wrote that he disagreed with the FTC expert’s decision to include only hospitals in the market that overlapped with both systems rather than just one.

Advocate and NorthShore said in a statement Monday afternoon that the opinion “reaffirms our position and the realities of the Chicago market.”

Full Content: Chicago Tribune

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