UTICA — Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center will take one more step this week toward final regulatory approval for their proposed affiliation.
The hospitals plan to file their paperwork with the Federal Trade Commission, the hospital CEOs said Tuesday.
The FTC must review the affiliation to determine whether it unduly limits local competition for health care services.
In the case of the FTC, no news is good news.
“We never get a letter back from them saying yes, go ahead,” said Faxton-St. Luke’s President and CEO Scott Perra.
If the hospitals don’t hear back within 30 days, the affiliation can proceed.
Last week, the proposed affiliation received approval from the New York Health Policy and Health Planning Council. And the state attorney general announced that his office had reached a settlement with the hospitals that satisfied concerns over whether the affiliation would drive up local health care prices due to reduced competition. That settlement includes monitoring by the attorney general.
But the affiliation, Perra and St. Elizabeth President and CEO Richard Ketcham stressed, would only be the beginning of a long-term process to determine how the hospitals can best meet the health care needs of area residents, they said.
“Make no mistake, there will be changes, but we need to do it thoughtfully,” Ketcham said.
Once the hospitals file the FTC paperwork, the agency will have 30 days to decide whether to ask the hospitals for more information. Once it receives that information, if requested, it would have another 30 days to review it. It then could do one of three things: let the affiliation go through, reach a settlement with the hospitals or challenge the affiliation in court.
Perra and Ketcham met with FTC lawyers in New York City over the summer to talk to them about the affiliation before filing paperwork and starting the 30-day clock ticking. They were trying to avoid a request for more information after they filed the official paperwork. Filling those requests can be a long and expensive process, Perra said.
FTC officials have indicated that they think they already have all the information they need and both CEOs expressed optimism.
Even if the FTC doesn’t raise objections, details that need to be settled with the state mean the affiliation might not take place for as long as 60 days, Perra said.
The two hospitals want to affiliate under an active parent organization, the Mohawk Valley Health System. St. Elizabeth would remain Catholic and Faxton St. Luke’s secular.