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The FTC is filing a lawsuit to block the merger of Utah’s health care system

The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that it is filing a lawsuit to stop HCA Healthcare, which operates MountainStar Healthcare in Utah, from buying five state-owned Steward Health Care hospitals. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that it is filing a lawsuit and an administrative complaint against a merger of the Utah health care system.

HCA Healthcare, known as MountainStar Healthcare in Utah, announced that it had acquired Steward Health Care Systems̵[ads1]7; five Utah hospitals in September. However, the FTC is trying to stop the merger as it says it will eliminate competition in the Wasatch Front region.

“As the second and fourth largest health care facility in the Wasatch Front region of Utah, which surrounds Salt Lake City, HCA Healthcare and the Steward Health Care System help keep costs down for consumers by competing fiercely with each other,” the FTC Bureau of Competition said. Director Holly Vedova in a statement.

Vedova said that competition between the two companies leads to both lower prices and innovative services that will be lost after a merger. The FTC statement said that HCA Healthcare and Steward Health Care System compete for the inclusion of insurance networks, health care quality and nurses and physicians.

Steward Health Care is currently a low-cost competitor to hospital services for general emergency care, and a merger may change that. The FTC said a merger would allow HCA to raise prices, and some of those costs would be passed on to employers and health plan members through increased premiums, deductibles and expenses.

According to the statement, the FTC voted unanimously to approve the application for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would stop the merger until the lawsuit is resolved. An administrative trial is scheduled to begin on December 13.

A public version of the lawsuit is not yet available.

In announcing the acquisition agreement, HCA Healthcare said the additional facilities would help them meet the growing health needs in Utah.

“We believe that the addition of these facilities will help us improve healthcare networking options for patients and enable investment in services to meet the growing demand for healthcare. We look forward to welcoming them to the HCA Healthcare family,” said CEO Sam Hazen .

The state-owned Steward Health Care hospitals include Davis Hospital in Layton, Jordan Valley Medical Center in West Jordan, Jordan Valley Medical Center-West Valley Campus, Mountain Point Medical Center in Lehi and Salt Lake Regional Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

HCA Healthcare’s MountainStar Hospital in Utah includes Brigham City Community Hospital, Cache Valley Hospital in North Logan, Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, Lone Peak Hospital in Draper, Mountain View Hospital-Payson, Ogden Regional Medical Center, St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and Timpanogo Regional Hospital in Orem.

Another health care provider in Utah completed its own merger in April, with Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare joining the Colorado hospital system SCL Health, making Intermountain the 11th largest nonprofit health care facility in the United States. Intermountain officials said the combined companies employ more than 59,000 people, operate 33 hospitals and 385 clinics in seven states and insure 1 million people in Utah and Idaho.

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Emily Ashcraft started at as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal matters, as well as news about health, faith and religion.

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