Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has joined federal regulators in seeking to block a proposed merger between big health systems Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem.
"The loss of competition between these two already large and successful hospital systems would be costly to patients on a variety of levels," Madigan said in a statement. "With fewer hospitals competing for patients on the North Shore, health care costs will inevitably rise."
The Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 18 issued an administrative complaint, alleging a combined Advocate-NorthShore would create a system with more than 55 percent of their local market share by hospital admissions. The partnership would “substantially lessen competition and cause significant harm” to consumers by increasing health care costs, the FTC said in its complaint.
Downers Grove-based Advocate has 12 hospitals, and Evanston-based NorthShore has four. Separately, both systems are among the largest and wealthiest in the Chicago area.
Today, Madigan and the FTC filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They're seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the health systems from completing the merger, pending an antitrust review from the FTC, Madigan's statement said.
The lawsuit alleges that the increased costs borne out of the merger would be paid by employers and their workers. The combined system would have less incentive to improve its services and quality of care, the lawsuit alleges, echoing the FTC's allegations.
In a statement, Jim Skogsbergh and Mark Neaman, president and CEO of Advocate and NorthShore, respectively, said they were "disappointed” with Madigan's announcement given that state regulators already have approved the marriage.
"We welcome the opportunity to be heard by a federal judge to demonstrate how our partnership will promote competition and drive value for consumers,” they said in their statement. "We remain steadfast in our belief that together we will lower cost, improve quality and enhance access for the communities we serve."