On July 6, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unanimously ordered the dismissal, without prejudice, of an administrative complaint filed in November 2015 regarding the proposed merger of two West Virginia hospitals located approximately three miles away from each other.  The complaint alleged that the proposed merger would give the combined entity over 75 percent of the market for general acute-care inpatient hospital services in a four-county region surrounding Huntington, West Virginia. The FTC’s decision to dismiss the complaint came after the March passage of West Virginia Senate Bill 597, which authorized certain “cooperative agreements” between hospitals within West Virginia, and the subsequent approval of such an arrangement between the proposed merger parties by the West Virginia Health Care Authority and the West Virginia Attorney General.

In its statement regarding the dismissal, however, the FTC voiced its concerns about such agreements, stating that “[t]his case presents another example of healthcare providers attempting to use state legislation to shield potentially anticompetitive combinations from antitrust enforcement.” The FTC further emphasized that it “will continue to vigorously investigate and, where appropriate, challenge anticompetitive mergers in the courts and, if necessary, through state cooperative agreement processes.”