Around the nation: Can West Virginia lawmakers shield a proposed hospital merger from the FTC?

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  • Georgia: Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare will use a $75 million gift from the Marcus Foundation to build a specialty heart center. Piedmont President and CEO Kevin Brown says the system wants the new center to be nationally renowned, like the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and is aiming to raise an additional $75 million in funding. "I believe this level of investment also helps Georgia become a regional health care destination," says Gov. Nathan Deal (R). The gift was the second-largest to ever be made to a community hospital in the United States, according to Piedmont (Miller, Georgia Health News, 3/18; Barkholz, Modern Healthcare, 3/21).

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  • Michigan: The state government this week released a plan to address the long-term health effects of lead-contaminated water in Flint. The plan focuses on water supply, education opportunities, health and human services, and economic development. It calls for hiring more nurses for the city's school system and coordinating professional training for residents to achieve long-term employment. "Many departments have been involved in addressing the immediate crisis in whatever way they could," says Gov. Rick Snyder (R). "At the same time, they have been working on longer-term plans" (Cook, Reuters, 3/22; Eggert, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/21).

  • West Virginia: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed a bill last week that aims to allow hospitals to merge without facing scrutiny from state and federal regulators. The new law asserts that the West Virginia Health Care Authority (WVHCA) and providers under its jurisdiction are exempt from state and federal antitrust laws and that decisions regarding hospital acquisitions will be made by WVHCA. Tennessee and Virginia recently enacted similar laws, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has not challenged a merger in either state. But some attorneys tell Modern Healthcare that it remains an open question whether a state law can actually shield the proposed merger from FTC scrutiny. FTC now will need to determine whether to continue challenging a proposed merger between West Virginia-based Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary's Medical Center (Schencker, Modern Healthcare, 3/21).

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