Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, of Nashville, Tennessee, has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to modify an agreement between the firm and the agency reached in connection with the firm's acquisition of Healthtrust, Inc.. The requested modification would eliminate Columbia/HCA's obligations to "hold separate" the Utah Healthtrust assets pending divestiture of a lease for commercial office space in a third-party-owned building in the Salt Lake City area after Columbia/HCA's divestiture of certain Utah hospitals. The FTC is seeking public comments on the petition for 10 days, until Jan. 22. Columbia/HCA stated in this petition that, shortly, it will submit a second petition in which it will seek to end its obligation to divest the lease.
The agreement at issue accompanies a consent order that Columbia/HCA signed to settle FTC charges that its $3 billion merger with Healthtrust would impair hospital competition --leading to higher prices, reduced services, or both -- in areas of Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Utah. To restore that competition, the consent order requires a total of seven divestitures and mandates that Columbia/HCA terminate its participation in a joint venture. Under the accompanying "hold separate" agreement, columbia/hca is required to operate the assets to be divested independently of its other hospitals.
Columbia/HCA maintains in its petition that the lease is for office space used by a company, Infusamed, that provided home health/home infusion services and pharmacy services. The consent order did not require Columbia to divest Infusamed. And this is a different market than the market at issue in the FTC case, which is acute care inpatient hospital services, the petition states.
Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
Copies of the petition, and of the consent order and hold separate agreement are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Docket No. C-3619)