Following a string of government losses in cases challenging hospital mergers in federal court, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice issued their report on competition in health care seeking to set the record straight on a number of issues that underlie the judiciary's resolution of these cases. One such issue is the import of nonprofit status for applying antitrust law. This essay describes antitrust's role in addressing the consolidation in the hospital sector and the subtle influence that the social function of the nonprofit hospital has had in merger litigation. Noting that the political and social context in which these institutions operate is never far from the surface, it takes issue with the proposal to cabin merger doctrine so as to deny the significance of nonprofit status in merger analysis. Given the dynamic change in the regulatory climate and heterogeneity of local health care markets, it advises courts not to accept the FTC's preemptive standard regarding the significance of hospitals' nonprofit status and keep open the possibility of fashioning new presumptive rules tailored to more complete economic accounts of nonprofit firm behavior.

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