HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced it will dismiss its complaint against Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center after it had alleged their proposed merger violated U.S. antitrust laws.

The two medical centers are 3 miles from each other in Huntington. The FTC dropped its complaint, which it had originally put forward in November 2015, after the passage of a West Virginia law regarding “cooperative agreements” between hospitals. The West Virginia Health Care Authority approved an agreement between the two hospitals in questions. Cooperative agreements are meant to replace antitrust enforcement with state regulation and health care provider supervision.

“This case presents another example of health care providers attempting to use state legislation to shield potentially anti-competitive combinations from antitrust enforcement,” the commission wrote in a statement. “The commission believes that state cooperative agreement laws such as SB 597 are likely to harm communities through higher health care prices and lower health care quality. We will continue to vigorously investigate and, where appropriate, challenge anti-competitive mergers in the courts and, if necessary, through state cooperative agreement processes.”

The FTC voted 3-0 to approve the statement and withdraw its complaint.

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