EVANSTON, Ill. Evanston Northwestern Healthcare has decided not to ask a federal court to review the Federal Trade Commissions conclusion that the systems 2000 acquisition of a third hospital in Chicagos northern suburbs violated antitrust laws.
We chose not to appeal, ENH spokesman Art Massa replied in response to a query about a docket entry in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicating the case had been dropped. Massa declined to elaborate on the decision, which ends the case without the courts weighing in on theories the FTC lawyers advanced in the administrative process.
The FTC filed an antitrust complaint in 2004, four years after the deal closed, pointing to post-merger price increases as evidence that the acquisition allowed the system to extract higher rates from managed-care payers who needed at least one of the three facilities in their provider networks. The widely watched action followed a string of failures the government suffered in the 1990s in pursuing preliminary injunctions in hospital cases. The FTC voted in August 2007 that the transaction was anticompetitive but allowed ENH, now a three-campus system with 580 beds, to remain intact as long as it offers insurers the opportunity to negotiate separately with Highland Park (Ill.) Hospital, the facility acquired in the censured transaction.
ENH recently completed an agreement to acquire a fourth hospital pending regulatory approval, 229-bed Rush North Shore Medical Center, about three miles west of its flagship Evanston campus.