A federal appeals court has upheld the rejection of a North Jersey hospital merger, blocking Hackensack Meridian Health’s proposed buyout of Englewood Healthcare Foundation.

The Federal Trade Commission had filed a complaint about the proposed deal in December 2020, saying it would decrease competition and drive-up health care costs for Bergen County area patients.

A federal court granted a preliminary injunction against the acquisition back in August, which was affirmed by the three-judge appeals panel.

According to the complaint, the merged healthcare system would control three of the six inpatient general acute care hospitals in Bergen County.

The proposed acquisition would leave insurers with few alternatives for inpatient general acute care services, which include a range of inpatient medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment services that require an overnight hospital stay, according to the FTC complaint.

Hackensack Meridian Health would be able to demand higher rates from insurers for the combined company's services, which, in turn, could lead to higher insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs for plan members. the complaint continued.

The administrative trial now is slated to begin on April 22.

“Had it been allowed to proceed, patients would have been left with fewer alternatives for inpatient general acute care services, which likely would have driven up prices and diminished the quality of care available in the area,” Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman said in a written statement on Tuesday.

Hackensack Meridian Health is the largest healthcare system in New Jersey, spanning across eight counties in the state’s northern and central regions.

In Bergen County, it operates its flagship hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center and partially owns Pascack Valley Medical Center — both within 10 miles of Englewood’s hospital.

Englewood is a non-profit independent hospital and healthcare network located in northern New Jersey, and it provides very similar services to Hackensack University Medical Center, according to the complaint.

“This acquisition would give the combined hospital system increased bargaining leverage, likely leading to increased prices,” Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, previously said in December 2020. “The transaction would also remove the competitive pressures that have driven thes

hospitals to invest in quality improvements to the benefit of patients.”

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reac

eh her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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