Health Law Highlights

The FTC Hosts Workshop on Private Equity in Health Care

From Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, by John Carroll, Joy Siu, Jake Walker:

On March 5, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a workshop titled “Private Capital, Public Impact: An FTC Workshop on Private Equity in Health Care”. The event aimed to explore the effects of private equity (PE) investment on the health care system. The workshop brought together representatives from the FTC, Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), academia, and health care professionals. Concurrently, these agencies initiated a “Cross-Government Inquiry on Impact of Corporate Greed in Health Care”, issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to seek public opinions on health care deals involving PE firms.

The workshop revealed a general skepticism from the agencies towards the escalating involvement of PE in the health care industry. They expressed concerns about potential negative impacts, such as increased consolidation and poorer patient outcomes. FTC Chair Lina Khan and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division of the DOJ, Jonathan Kanter, were among those who voiced worries about the potential for profit motives to override medical judgment and the detrimental effects of PE ownership on patient care.

The workshop also highlighted that antitrust enforcement is looking to address certain practices employed by PE firms in the health care sector. These include serial acquisitions of provider practices, short-term acquisitions with high debt aimed at quick profit and resale, investments in competing companies within the same industry, and PE representation on the boards of competing companies. Testimonies from health care professionals further supported these concerns, citing instances of reduced staffing and lower quality of care following PE acquisitions.

During a discussion, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha addressed how Rhode Island’s Hospital Conversions Act allowed the state to impose conditions on a private equity transaction. They advocated for similar legislation and encouraged state attorneys general to use state antitrust and consumer protection laws to combat PE consolidation in the health care system.

The workshop and RFI emphasize an increasing federal and state oversight of PE transactions, particularly in the health care sector. Several states have proposed new legislation to provide state attorneys general with more power to investigate and potentially block investments by PE firms in the health care industry. The goal of the RFI, as stated by Jonathan Kanter, is to understand the modern market realities of the health care industry and enforce the law against unlawful deals. PE firms, sellers, and portfolio companies should be aware of these potential obstacles when considering health care transactions.