Health Law Blog - Healthcare Legal Issues

Antitrust Law Application In Rural Areas- Hospital Mergers

Antitrust Law is a “Big City” Legal Issue, Right?  Wrong.

Antitrust Law Small TownsOne might tend to believe that the rather obscure area of antitrust law would have little application in small town America.  After all, most of the legal expertise on the antitrust is located in big cities (Ruder Ware being a major exception).

When you really examine the cases that are being brought by the Federal Trade Commission, you will begin to see that it is the market where there are few competitors that tend to be on the receiving end of antitrust enforcement activities.  Market areas where there are only three or four hospitals are much more likely to see antitrust enforcement activity than are markets with more competing hospitals.

The same concepts hold true with physician affiliation and mergers.  For example, the merger of two urology groups in a big city market would quite possibly not involve a sufficient number of providers to adversely impact competition in the market.  In a smaller market, those same two urology groups could involve all of the urologists in town.  A merger in that situation could create a monopoly.

Similar issues arise in the development of clinically integrated provider networks.  Even if independent physicians achieve clinical integration control of too much of the market could adversely impact competition and could raise antitrust concerns.  These risks are often much greater in small town markets.  This “big city” legal issue cannot be overlooked when putting together “small town” business deals.

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John H. Fisher

Health Care Counsel
Ruder Ware, L.L.S.C.
500 First Street, Suite 8000
P.O. Box 8050
Wausau, WI 54402-8050

Tel 715.845.4336
Fax 715.845.2718

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