Ftc Medical Alert

The planned merger of hospital giant Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. with HealthTrust Inc. may have hit a snag at the Federal Trade Commission. FTC sources say that correspondence between the two companies after the merger was announced last fall raises "troubling questions" about whether Columbia is trying to discourage competition in Florida. The note proposed deals that trustbusters could view as carving up the local market or freezing out a rival. A federal court on Mar. 30 disagreed and refused to block the merger. But the FTC will take a closer look before approving the marriage, which would produce a chain of 310 hospitals. Columbia remains confident of approval.

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