AG review clears path for Huntington hospital merger

By Chris Dickerson | Jun 22, 2016

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, after an independent review of pertinent facts, concurred with the state Health Care Authority’s decision to grant a certificate of approval sought by Cabell Huntington Hospital.

The certificate awards the state’s approval in the proposed merger of Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington.

“We are very excited to meet both the West Virginia Attorney Healthcare Authority and Attorney General’s approvals,” Cabell Huntington President and CEO Kevin N. Fowler said in a statement. “These are important milestones in the regulatory approval process for the SMMC acquisition. We value the due diligence given to our request by both WVHCA and AG as they truly understand the challenges facing West Virginia and the Tri-State region and the needs of its residents.

"We sincerely believe that combining CHH and SMMC will create a single excellent hospital system that moves healthcare in our region to a new level. Healthcare consumers can look forward to a higher level of specialized care and enhanced quality without the fear of excessive costs. The decision of the Health Care Authority and the Attorney General to approve the Cabell/St. Mary’s transaction confirms our belief.”

St. Mary’s President and CEO Michael Sellards agreed.

"St. Mary's Medical Center is pleased with today’s decision and we thank the members of the West Virginia Health Care Authority and the West Virginia Attorney General for their careful consideration of this matter,” he said in the joint statement. “We remain convinced that this acquisition will improve the delivery of healthcare in our community and that it is in the best interest of patients and our employees and physicians.”

Cabell Huntington Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with Marshall University, previously entered into an antitrust agreement with the Attorney General’s Office in July 2015. That agreement, amended months later, resolved concerns about the merger’s impact.

“The conduct of Cabell Huntington, post-acquisition, will be further regulated by the Authority and the Attorney General’s Office indefinitely,” Morrisey wrote in a letter addressed to Health Care Authority leaders. “Any disadvantage of this agreement will be more than outweighed by the advantages and benefits to the State and the healthcare of its citizens.”

In April, Morrisey committed himself to defend and enforce a new state law governing mergers, Senate Bill 597, against any challenge by the Federal Trade Commission.

SB 597 made the proposed merger immune from federal and state antitrust laws, as long as it received the certificate of approval, which is granted with the June 22 announcement.

The Attorney General’s Office and Health Care Authority had 75 days to make a decision.

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