A federal appeals court has upheld a decision blocking the planned merger of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center with Hackensack Meridian Health out of concern raised by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the deal would have driven up the price of hospital care in Bergen County.
If Hackensack acquired Englewood — its most significant competitor — Hackensack would control three of the six hospitals in Bergen County, the FTC argued in blocking the sale. An FTC expert estimated $31 million in higher prices, based on peer-reviewed analyses.
Hackensack has spent more than a decade acquiring independent hospitals, which have generally struggled to compete in an ever consolidating health care market and negotiate with insurance companies. Englewood would have been Hackensack’s 13th acute-care facility. The network pledged to invest $439.5 million in improvements over eight years.
The hospitals argued the efficiencies in merging certain operations would net savings. But the district court found and the appeals court agreed, that while these benefits “may exist, but they are not significant enough to offset the likely anticompetitive effects of the merger.”
Shortly after the ruling, Englewood released a statement saying the institution “remains strong.” President and CEO Warren Geller said there are plans to continue expanding outpatient care facilities, where 70% of patients are now treated. A 73,000-square-foot walk-in, primary care and specialty care facility is planned in Jersey City.
Meanwhile, the hospital’s foundation raised $18 million in the past year, he said. “No jobs are going away as a result of this court decision, by any means,” Geller added.
The American Hospital Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, the New Jersey Hospital Association, and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey backed the merger, the statement noted. The New Jersey Attorney General and the state Health Department had signed off on the merger.
“We firmly believe this merger is in the best interest of our patients and the community at large,” officials at Hackensack Meridian Health in a statement. “At this time, we are weighing the next steps that are in the best interest of the communities we serve,” the statement said.