Wentworth, Exeter hospitals merger said to violate anti-trust law

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Wentworth Douglass Hospital merger now up in air. (Courtesy photo)

CONCORD - Saying it violates the "free and fair competition in the trades and industries" provision in the state's constitution, the state's Attorney General Office lodged its objections to a merger between Wenworth Douglass, Exeter Health Resources and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The decision was unveiled today as New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald announced the release of the Charitable Trusts Unit's report regarding the proposed acquisition.

Specifically, the proposal hoped to consolidate two competing hospital systems with physician practices, resulting in both being controlled by the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Before such a transaction may take place, New Hampshire law requires the Charitable Trusts Unit to review the proposal and determine whether, among other requirements, the transaction is permitted by applicable law, today's statement read, adding the Attorney General objects to the proposed transaction because the transaction fails the primary requirement.

MacDonald noted that Part 2, Article 83 of the New Hampshire Constitution requires "free and fair competition in the trades and industries," and that RSA 356, the State's Antitrust law, and RSA 358-A, the Consumer Protection Act, all protect free and fair competition.

After a yearlong fact intensive review by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, the Attorney General has reason to believe that a violation of law will occur if this proposed transaction goes through, the statement read.

"Our most important duty is to protect the public and we will not hesitate to use the enforcement tools available to us to do so," said MacDonald. "New Hampshire patients already pay some of the highest prices for health care in the country. Based on our investigation, we have concluded that this transaction implicates our laws protecting free and fair competition and therefore threatens even higher health care costs to be borne by New Hampshire consumers."

The Charitable Trusts Units report can be found here:

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