North Dakota Physician Group Merger Hits FTC Roadblock

A North Dakota federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday blocking a proposed merger between a pair of health care providers in the state until the matter could be reviewed at a scheduled Federal Trade Commission administrative hearing in January. The order grants a request made by the FTC and the State of North Dakota, which jointly brought the action, alleging that the proposed merger of Sanford Health, Sanford Bismarck and Mid Dakota Clinic PC would substantially decrease competition and cause significant harm to consumers.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Sanford Health operates more than 40 hospitals and 250 clinics in nine states, according to the complaint. Sanford Bismarck operates a 217-bed hospital and employs 160 physicians and 100 other health care providers in Bismarck, the agencies say.

Mid Dakota, meanwhile, operates six clinics in Bismarck, as well as a couple of other facilities, and employs 61 physicians and 19 advanced practitioners in the region, according to the FTC.

The administrative complaint says the two providers are each other’s main rivals in a four-county region with a population of about 125,000. If the deal were allowed to go through, other health care groups would be unlikely to provide adequate competition by entering or expanding into the market, the agency says.

The transaction would create a physician group with at least a 75 to 85 percent share of the markets for adult primary care physician services, pediatric services, and obstetrics and gynecology services in the area, according to the FTC. It also says that the merged group would be the only provider of general surgery physician services in the region.

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