U.S. FTC loses bid to stop Pennsylvania hospital deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled that two Pennsylvania hospital systems may proceed with a planned merger, refusing to order a preliminary injunction sought by the Federal Trade Commission.

U.S. District Judge John Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Monday said that the FTC had not shown it would likely succeed in stopping a merger between Penn State Hershey Medical Center, a 551-bed hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and PinnacleHealth System, which has 646 beds in three hospitals.

The FTC, which enforces antitrust law, may opt to press on with the legal fight. But the judge’s decision means the hospitals may close their transaction.

The two Pennsylvania hospital systems said in a statement that they would continue the work of integration. An FTC spokeswoman said the agency was “disappointed in the ruling and will be considering our options.”

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Dan Grebler