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West Virginia attorney general announces antitrust agreement in Huntington hospital takeover

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HUNTINGTON, West Virginia — St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington would operate as a stand-alone facility after its takeover by Cabell Huntington Hospital under an antitrust agreement announced Friday by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Morrisey said the agreement filed Friday in Cabell County Circuit Court sets conditions to ensure the acquisition complies with state and federal law. The acquisition is still under review by the Federal Trade Commission.

In November, Cabell Huntington Hospital Inc. agreed to assume control of St. Mary's after the Pallottine Missionary Sisters ended their sponsorship of the hospital after 90 years.

St. Mary's has 393 beds and Cabell Huntington has 303 beds. They are the top two private employers in Cabell County. The combined operation would represent the second-largest hospital chain in the state behind Charleston Area Medical Center.

"Unfortunately, with the recent increased federal regulation in the health care industry, the trend of hospital consolidation will likely increase over the coming years as hospitals struggle to deal with the increased costs of regulation," Morrisey said. "However, I believe given the conditions negotiated in our agreement, the best interests of our citizens will be protected."

Morrisey said the hospitals cooperated with the attorney general's office during the investigation and do not admit any violations of antitrust laws under the agreement.

Among the terms of the agreement, St. Mary's would be maintained as a free-standing acute care hospital over the next seven years.

The hospitals also agreed to implement community wellness programs that will reach out to medically underserved areas, develop quality and population health goals, establish a records system that physicians at both hospitals can use, and continue to accept Ohio and Kentucky Medicaid patients at in-state provider rates established by those states.

Neither hospital can increase service rates beyond the state Health Care Authority's benchmark. If the hospitals' combined operating margins exceed an average of 4 percent during any three-year period, their rates will be reduced by the amount over that for the following three years, Morrisey said.

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