Lifespan, CNE say hospital merger still on track as months-long review continues

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s two largest hospital groups said Monday they have taken another formal step toward merging into one system, as state and federal regulators continue to give the proposal tough scrutiny.

Lifespan and Care New England said they submitted revised merger applications on Friday to Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office and the R.I. Department of Health, and said the documents would be “addressing follow-up questions” from their original application filed April 26. Both agencies need to sign off on the deal.

However, a spokesperson for Neronha said the Lifespan-CNE merger application “has not yet been deemed complete,” meaning its formal review by the attorney general’s office has yet to begin.

Separately, the two not-for-profit corporations said they will also continue to seek approval from the Federal Trade Commission, which is reviewing the transaction for antitrust problems since the two organizations would dominate Rhode Island health care if they join forces.

Spokespersons for Lifespan and CNE said they have “submitted many thousands of pages of information to the FTC to date, with more to come” and that as of Friday they had finished filing several weeks of responses “to the FTC’s most pressing questions.”

Lifespan and Care New England unveiled their blockbuster merger deal in February, arguing that by combining forces into an academic medical center affiliated with Brown University they can improve outcomes for patients and promote economic development in Rhode Island.

Lifespan owns Rhode Island, Miriam, Newport and Bradley hospitals; Care New England owns Women & Infants, Kent and Butler. They employ more than 22,000 workers combined.

Two earlier efforts to merge Lifespan and CNE since the 1990s fell apart, and the health systems are again facing skepticism from regulators and some lawmakers this time because of how powerful a merged system would be.

Lifespan executives told bondholders last month that they hoped the merger will be approved by late this year or early in 2022.

“The new entity will enhance our ability to keep patients in Rhode Island for their care and continue to attract federal research dollars into Rhode Island in an even more competitive environment,” Lifespan President and CEO Dr. Tim Babineau said in a statement Monday.

Care New England President and CEO Dr. James Fanale added, “We are pleased that the process has continued on track and look forward to continued dialogue with our regulators to ensure that they have all the necessary information to review and ultimately approve the proposed transaction.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

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