Feb 17, 2017

How the FTC’s new competition chief could affect health care

President Trump's acting Federal Trade Commission chairwoman, Maureen Ohlhausen, is wasting no time shaking up the agency. She named Tad Lipsky the new acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition yesterday — the office charged with policing mergers and acquisitions for most of the health care industry.

What this means: Potentially less oversight, but not for all health care players. Lipsky replaces Deborah Feinstein, who went after some large hospital and health system mergers. However, her group has been lax on many transactions involving drug companies, pharmacy benefit managers and retail pharmacies.

  • Former FTC staffers say Lipsky is a pro-business conservative who is less aggressive in challenging M&A, but he also is knowledgable about health care and likely won't slow down reviews on hospital mergers.
  • Former FTC antitrust attorney John Kirkwood: "This is not choosing a Steve Bannon ... This is like choosing another establishment figure to the right of Debbie Feinstein."

Lipsky's background: He worked in the Reagan administration's Justice Department, and then was the top antitrust attorney at Coca-Cola from 1992 to 2002 — a time when Coke gobbled up other soda companies such as Barq's and Schweppes.

Key quote: Here's what Lipsky said to U.S. News & World Report in December after Trump won: "The purpose of antitrust is not necessarily to prevent firms from succeeding, even when they become very dominant in their industry."

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