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The merger of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health, announced Wednesday, would create one of the country’s biggest nonprofit hospital systems with $27 billion in revenues and a sprawling network of facilities in far-flung states — and likely will draw scrutiny from federal regulators. 

There’s no obvious legal path for them to block the massive deal, which would combine two systems that operate not only in different states, but in different regions of the country. Attorneys and antitrust experts say the Federal Trade Commission has never taken legal action to block a merger between hospital systems that operate in distinct markets, known as a cross-market merger, although it has evaluated the possibility. 

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