BJC HealthCare, Saint Luke’s Health System plan merger

BJC HealthCare and Saint Luke’s Health System signed a nonbinding letter of intent to form a $10 billion nonprofit system with 28 hospitals across Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.

Richard Liekweg, president and CEO of St. Louis-based BJC, would serve as the CEO of the combined health system if a definitive agreement is reached and the transaction passes the customary regulatory review and approvals. The health system’s board would include representation form both BJC and Kansas City, Missouri-based Saint Luke’s.

The systems said they hoped to reach a definitive agreement in coming months and have the transaction close by the end of the year. It would mark the latest regional health system combination, following the likes of the proposed merger of Milwaukee-based Froedtert Health and Neenah, Wisconsin-based ThedaCare and Green Bay-based Gundersen Health System and La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Bellin Health, which completed their deal in November. If the deal closes, BJC and Saint Luke’s would maintain their existing brands and operate from dual headquarters—St. Louis and Kansas City.

The Federal Trade Commission has been ramping up scrutiny of hospital mergers with overlapping service areas, which is in part why large systems have been increasingly looking across states for merger partners. The FTC, which typically argues that prices rise after nearby hospitals merge, is often hesitant to challenge cross-market transactions because antitrust law focuses on in-state transactions and minimal legal precedent exists for cross-state combinations.

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