“When we went into this legal process, we knew it would be challenging. While we're disappointed, it's not surprising,” system spokesman Tim Langhorst said of the decision, which was announced late Monday following a months-long trial by a Federal Trade Commission administrative law judge.
Langhorst said the system plans to appeal the case to U.S. District Court, after exhausting legal remedies for an appeal before the commission.
ProMedica acquired a suburban hospital in August 2010, 198-bed St. Luke's Hospital, Maumee, Ohio, but the FTC subsequently challenged the purchase and won a preliminary injunction from a U.S. District Court judge ordering ProMedica to largely hold the hospital separate pending the outcome of the challenge.
On Monday, the administrative law judge—who provides initial fact-finding for the four-member FTC—ruled in favor of the FTC's challenge. An FTC spokesman declined to comment on the decision, which has not yet been released publicly.
The ProMedica case is the FTC's first hospital merger challenge to be carried through an administrative trial in six years.
The FTC alleged the St. Luke's deal significantly increased ProMedica's dominance in Lucas County for general acute-care and obstetric services, and that one of the primary motivations for the deal was to get higher prices from health plans.
ProMedica President and CEO Randy Oostra wrote in a commentary piece published in Modern Healthcare that the system and St. Luke's joined hands as part of a national move toward consolidation and integration encouraged under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Regulatory agencies such as the FTC would better serve the country's citizens by keeping pace and adapting to reflect the new healthcare environment,” Oostra wrote.
The FTC has challenged two other hospital deals since filing the ProMedica complaint.