R.I. Attorney General denies Lifespan-Care New England merger

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE)- Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha has denied the Lifespan-Care New England healthcare merger.

According to the AG’s Office, the decision was made following a thorough review as required under the Hospital Conversions Act.

This included consideration of comments and testimony received from the public.

Three public meetings were held where more than 50 members of the public spoke and received over 200 public comments.

The office concluded that the proposed merger would result in ‘extraordinary market power’ for the new hospital system in violation of both state and federal antitrust laws.

“I recognize how critical healthcare is for the State and for every Rhode Islander. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further underscored the vital importance of affordable access to high-quality care for all. Put simply, if this extraordinary and unprecedented level of control and consolidation were allowed to go forward, nearly all Rhode Islanders would see their healthcare costs go up, for health care that is lower in quality and harder to access,” said Attorney General Neronha.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision of the FTC, as we know that the status quo will not well serve the healthcare needs of the people of Rhode Island,”said Lawrence A. Aubin, Sr., Lifespan Board of Directors Chairman. “We are committed to continued work to meet those needs now and into the future.”

“A Rhode Island solution, that remains nonprofit, and creates the state’s first fully integrated academic health care system is what we seek to accomplish for the state and that remains our overriding goal,” said Lifespan President and CEO Timothy J. Babineau, M.D. “We have articulated the incredible and transformative value to the state in making that vision a reality. Further, the healthcare market for Rhode Island spans outside the borders of the state, well into MA and CT, and so too should the economic and competitive considerations to allow us to create the same type of health care system that many other cities including Boston, New Haven, Pittsburgh and many others are able to enjoy. I am deeply disappointed in today’s decisions.”

Charles Reppucci, Care New England Board of Directors Chairman, said, “Rhode Island deserves the best possible solution to serve their health and wellbeing. While this is very disappointing, we will always keep the patients at the forefront and our teams will continue their day to day focus on patient care, and management will come together to thoughfully seek out the best solution for the future .”

Care New England President and CEO James E. Fanale, M.D., said, “Of course, we are disappointed, but I will say that we can truly know that we did everything we could over the past few years of hard work to get this done. We thought it was the right thing to do, but now we will need to move on to a new path forward. There is always a path forward, and we will explore all options to find the best possible – and acceptable to regulatory bodies –solution for access to affordable, quality, health care.”

Lynn Blais, President of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union released the following statement on the decision,

“The UNAP strongly disagrees with the Attorney General’s rejection of the hospital merger. It is clear that Care New England is in dire financial straits, and in no financial condition to sustain their operations as they currently are. The merger of these two groups could be our last, best chance to ensure a healthy, stable, not-for-profit healthcare system that stays under Rhode Island control. Alarmingly, this decision has now opened the door for three more Rhode Island hospitals – Women and Infants, Kent and Butler – to be sold to an out of state, for-profit corporation who will almost certainly put shareholder profits ahead of quality patient care, as we’ve seen time and again. Attorney General Neronha himself has browbeaten modern day robber barons like Prospect Medical Holdings, owner of Roger Williams Medical Center and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, saying ‘those who claimed to care about healthcare here in Rhode Island and around the country cared more – orders of magnitude more – about lining their own pockets than about the people they purported to serve.’ The people of Rhode Island can’t afford another buyer who wants to come in and suck every last nickel out of these hospitals in the interest of making a bigger profit for shareholders. State leaders shot down the not-for-profit Partners/Care New England merger. Now they’ve shot down the not-for-profit, Lifespan/Care New England Rhode Island-based solution that ensured protections for workers and patients. We understand what they’re against. Now it’s time for them to clarify what they’re for. Time is running out.”

Senate President Ruggerio released a statement on the denial of the merger,

“I appreciate the thorough review conducted by the Attorney General and will review the decision before taking any further steps. My foremost concerns remain the same – ensuring every Rhode Islander has access to a public health system that provides robust care, fosters partnerships with our research-based institutions, and drives equitable access to care while sustaining and creating jobs in this critical sector of our economy.”

Speaker Shekarchi also released a statement,

“I thank the presidents, members of the boards of directors, and the teams at both Lifespan and Care New England for their hard work on this proposed merger application. I encourage the two hospital groups and Brown University to immediately terminate their exclusivity agreement and explore all options available to them in the marketplace. My primary concern has always been to ensure continued high-quality health care for all Rhode Islanders and to protect the employment of the thousands of hard-working front-line professionals.”

Check back to ABC6 for the latest updates.

Categories: News, Rhode Island