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The Federal Trade Commission will require Surgery Center Holdings, Inc., known as Surgery Partners, and Symbion Holdings Corporation to divest Symbion’s ownership interest in an ambulatory surgery center in Orange City, Florida, as part of a settlement resolving charges that Surgery Partners’ $792 million purchase of Symbion would be anticompetitive. The action is part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to protect American consumers from higher healthcare costs.

Both companies operate a large number of ambulatory surgery centers located throughout the country that sell and provide outpatient surgical services to commercial health plans and commercially insured patients. The proposed merger would have combined the only two multi-specialty ambulatory surgical centers in the Orange City/Deltona area of Florida, and would have left commercial health plans and commercially insured patients there with only one meaningful alternative to Surgery Partners’ outpatient surgical services.                                                                                                                                  

According to the FTC’s complaint, the merger as originally proposed would likely have eliminated substantial competition to provide outpatient surgical services in the Orange City/Deltona area, enabling the combined firm to increase rates for outpatient surgical services sold and provided to commercial health plans and commercially insured patients. The divestiture will restore the competition that otherwise would be lost as a result of the merger.         

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Surgery Partners agrees to divest Symbion’s ownership interest in the Blue Springs Surgery Center in Orange City, Florida, to a Commission-approved buyer within 60 days of when the Commission issues the final order. The settlement also requires Surgery Partners and Symbion to hold separate the management, and maintain the competitiveness, of the Blue Springs Surgery Center until the divestiture is complete.  

The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. 

The FTC will publish the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through December 2, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.  When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per day.

The FTC’s Bureau of Competition works with the Bureau of Economics to investigate alleged anticompetitive business practices and, when appropriate, recommends that the Commission take law enforcement action. To inform the Bureau about particular business practices, call 202-326-3300, send an e-mail to antitrust{at}ftc{dot}gov, or write to the Office of Policy and Coordination, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Room CC-5422, Washington, DC 20580. To learn more about the Bureau of Competition, read Competition Counts. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs

Jill Frumin
Bureau of Competition