With the plan to merge Cottage Health with Sansum Clinic — the two largest health-care providers on the South Coast — now approaching its fourth birthday, there’s still no news whether the proposal is passing muster with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which must approve any such mergers.
Spokespersons with Cottage and Sansum have both denied rumors the merger proposal had been withdrawn, insisting there was nothing new to report. Both entities have kept largely mum throughout the review process, which commenced in June 2013. Under the Obama administration, health-care mergers faced long uphill climbs with the FTC, especially if the merging entities controlled such large market shares. Cottage owns three hospitals in Santa Barbara County, and Sansum runs 23 health clinics.
Cottage and Sansum have argued the merger would create efficiencies of scale and service delivery that would benefit the public while also providing greater economic stability for the providers. Their executives have declined to engage with the media in public discussion of the merits of the merger and pitfalls — high prices, more expensive insurance premiums — associated with some concentrations. Officials with the FTC have declined to acknowledge even that the matter is under investigation. The state Attorney General’s office — which must also weigh in on such combinations — had nothing to say on the matter, either.
Cottage Health did announce that its Santa Barbara and Goleta hospitals both won five-star designations for quality care and patient safety from Hospital Compare, a hospital rating service. Cottage has won the five-star award four quarters in a row. These ratings are compiled from information gleaned from records amassed by the federal agency Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.