The Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning, Elizabeth Wilkins, issued the following statement in response to the decision by the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and Crouse Health System, Inc. to abandon their proposed merger:
“It is very good news for patients and healthcare workers in upstate New York that this proposed merger is not going to happen. As we said in our comment to the New York State Department of Health, the deal presented substantial risk of serious competitive and consumer harm in the form of higher healthcare costs, lower quality, reduced innovation, reduced access to care, and depressed wages for hospital employees.”
FTC staff had an active investigation into the effects of the proposed merger. In its comment to the New York State Department of Health, the FTC voiced opposition to a request by SUNY Upstate Medical University and Crouse Health System for a certificate of public advantage, also known as a COPA, which could have shielded the merger from antitrust laws. According to the agency, the merged entity would have had a combined share of nearly 67 percent of commercially insured inpatient hospital services in Onondaga County, and the proposed merger would have reduced the number of hospital options available for nearly all patients from three to two.
In 2017, the FTC announced a policy project to assess the impact of COPAs on prices, quality, access, and innovation for health care services. The studies of past COPAs have revealed significant increases in commercial inpatient prices, as well as declines in quality of care. More broadly, access to affordable healthcare is of the utmost importance to American consumers. Promoting competition in the healthcare sector is a key priority for the FTC, including preventing anticompetitive hospital mergers.