CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Thursday outlined the next steps about how his office will be involved in the proposed merger of two Huntington hospitals and indicated he will defend and enforce the new law governing mergers against any challenge by the Federal Trade Commission.
The merger, as announced in August 2014, seeks to join Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center. The FTC sought to block the merger last November, but Attorney General Morrisey believes recent passage of Senate Bill 597 strengthens an agreement already reached by his office and both hospitals.
“This merger, if approved, will result in positive healthcare outcomes for consumers in Cabell, Wayne and surrounding counties,” Morrisey said. “Costs will be kept down, and new community-focused health and wellness programs will make Huntington and surrounding areas a better place to live and do business.
“The FTC might challenge SB 597 and continue its challenge of this acquisition, but, both efforts are likely to fail. If FTC insists upon taking this path, my office stands committed to defending the law’s constitutionality and enforceability,” Morrisey added.
SB 597 makes the proposed merger immune from federal and state antitrust laws, as long as it receives a certificate of approval from the state Health Care Authority and Morrisey.
Cabell Huntington, a teaching hospital affiliated with Marshall University, submitted its application for the certificate of approval March 25. It remains under review with consultation between the Attorney General’s Office and Health Care Authority regarding merits of the merger. The offices have 75 days, from the date of application, to make a decision.
To gain final approval, Morrisey must agree the merger’s likely benefits outweigh the likely disadvantages from reduced competition.
Morrisey believes his office’s antitrust agreement with both hospitals, entered in July 2015 and amended November 2015, alleviates initial concerns about the merger’s effect on competition and the delivery of healthcare services.
However, due to recent passage of SB 597, Morrisey still must rule on the application for the certificate of approval before the merger can proceed.