The House last night voted 230 to 185 to approve the Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules Act (H.R. 5645), AHA-supported legislation that would standardize the merger review process for the two federal antitrust agencies. “The SMARTER Act helps hospitals and health systems evolve to serve the needs of their communities in the face of changing payment and delivery system reforms so they can better coordinate and integrate care to lower costs and improve quality for patients,” AHA said in a letter of support for the bill. “This legislation takes the critical step of standardizing the merger review process between the two federal antitrust agencies: The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission. Hospitals, in particular, have been adversely impacted by the ability of the FTC to use its own internal administrative process to challenge a transaction. Specifically, while the DOJ litigates its merger cases entirely in federal court before an impartial judge, the FTC has used the difference in authority between the two federal antitrust agencies to subject hospital transactions to what amounts to double jeopardy: commencing administrative litigation at the same time pursuing a preliminary injunction in federal court.”

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