HealthTrust-The Hospital Co. and Holy Cross Health System Corp. are working on a consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that would settle charges that a three-hospital deal between the two systems would violate federal antitrust law.
The systems confirmed the settlement talks in an April 29 statement.
"Both Holy Cross and HealthTrust are desirous of bringing the transaction to a prompt conclusion," they said.
The systems also signed a second extension to their purchase agreement to give them more time to work out their differences with the FTC.
HealthTrust, the Nashville, Tenn.-based chain, wants to buy Holy Cross' three hospitals in Utah for an undisclosed amount. The hospitals are 200-bed Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City, 239-bed St. Benedict's Hospital in Ogden and 39-bed Holy Cross Jordan Valley Hospital in West Jordan. HealthTrust already owns six hospitals in Utah. Four of them are considered to be in the same market as the Holy Cross facilities.
On March 22, the FTC's five commissioners in Washington authorized the agency's staff to file an antitrust complaint against the systems, charging them with violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which bars acquisitions that may reduce competition. However, the agency has yet to take any formal legal action, pending the outcome of the settlement talks.
A source close to the talks said the consent agreement under discussion would permit the sale to go through but would require HealthTrust to divest one or more other hospitals in the market.
Spokesmen for the two systems wouldn't comment on the terms of the pending settlement.