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ACM blocks acquisition of Mauritskliniek by Bergman Clinics

After a thorough investigation, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has decided to block the planned acquisition of Dutch health care provider Mauritskliniek by rival provider Bergman Clinics. ACM has concluded that Bergman Clinics already has a very strong position vis-à-vis health insurers. The planned acquisition would have made that position even stronger. That could have led to further price increases.

Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: “Organic growth is always possible. However, employing an inorganic growth strategy, where, for example, a very strong competitor acquires other smaller health care providers, has its limits, as it may lead to further price increases. By blocking this acquisition, we do our part in meeting the collective responsibility for keeping high-quality and innovative health care affordable.”

Bergman Clinics and Mauritskliniek are independent treatment centers (Dutch acronym: ZBCs) that provide plannable specialist medical care. Bergman Clinics predominantly offers dermatologic, orthopedic, and ophthalmologic care. Bergman Clinics is, by far, the largest and most well-known chain of independent treatment centers in the Netherlands, with over 40 locations across the country. The chain is owned by private equity firm Triton, and it also has locations in Scandinavia and Germany. Mauritskliniek has 5 locations in the Netherlands, and predominantly offers dermatologic care.

What is this case about?

Over the past few years, Bergman Clinics has grown tremendously, both organically and inorganically (through mergers and acquisitions, such as the merger with health care provider NL Healthcare Clinics). Bergman Clinics currently operates a network of clinics that covers the entire country. Other independent treatment centers are much smaller, lack nationwide coverage, or are considerably less well-known. Health insurers that buy health care for their insured are no longer able to ignore Bergman Clinics. Health insurers, too, have expressed concerns about the acquisition of Mauritskliniek.

Over the past few years, the price of health care provided by Bergman Clinics has risen considerably more than that of other independent treatment centers and hospitals that offer the same type of care. This has been revealed by an extensive study that ACM conducted into the price trends of Bergman Clinics after the merger with NL Healthcare Clinics three years ago. That, too, is an indication of a very strong bargaining position, as a result of which health insurers need to pay more for health care.

What is ACM’s conclusion?

ACM has concluded that, through this acquisition, Bergman Clinics would gain an even stronger bargaining position vis-à-vis health insurers. That would allow Bergman Clinics to demand higher prices. If one company already has such a strong bargaining position, an acquisition will be too much quite easily. That is why ACM blocks this merger.

Both parties have the opportunity to file an appeal against this decision.

ACM’s concentration control: mergers and acquisitions in health care

Through its assessment of mergers and acquisitions, ACM contributes towards the affordability, accessibility, and quality of health care. In ACM’s assessments of mergers and acquisitions, the consequences for patients and insured are central. If patients and health insurers have sufficient options after the merger of acquisition, it will help towards lower prices, higher quality, and more innovation in health care.