Healthcare / Antitrust

On Monday, September 17, 2018, the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) cleared Cigna’s proposed $67 billion acquisition of Express Scripts, the country’s largest pharmacy benefit manager. While the transaction still needs the approval of certain state regulatory agencies, obtaining the DOJ’s approval was widely seen as the transaction’s most significant obstacle to overcome.
Continue Reading Federal Antitrust Regulators Approve Cigna’s Proposed Acquisition of Express Scripts

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court on March 29, 2018 (the “Complaint”), alleging that Sutter Health (“Sutter”), one of Northern California’s largest healthcare providers, engaged in unlawful conduct in violation of California’s Cartwright Act (the “Act”).[1] Sutter Health has a substantial healthcare network that includes: 24 hospitals, 35 outpatient centers, physician’s organizations with over 5,500 members, and over 12,000 other physicians who partner with Sutter.
Continue Reading California Sues Sutter Health Alleging Anti-Competitive Practices

The Seventh Circuit refused to revive an exclusive dealing claim by one hospital against its competitor because of an exclusivity agreement with an insurance plan. Judge Richard Posner wrote the short opinion strongly reiterating in the health insurance context the established principle that a competitor trying to attack vertical agreements under Section 1 of the Sherman Act will have an uphill struggle under the Rule of Reason. The case is Methodist Health Services Corp. v. OSF Healthcare System d/b/a Saint Francis Medical Center, No. 16-3791 (7th Cir. June 19, 2017).
Continue Reading Exclusive Agreement Between Hospital and Insurance Plan Does Not Violate Section 1

The antitrust injury and antitrust standing defenses/doctrines are alive and well in healthcare.  A recent case, SCPH Legacy Corp. et al. v. Palmetto Health et al., shows that a competitor is not always the most legally appropriate plaintiff to bring an antitrust case, especially when the competitor’s alleged harm stems from increased competition.  This article explains the court’s reasoning and makes some predictions for similar arguments in the future.
Continue Reading Antitrust Not Always Available in Competitor Disputes in the Healthcare Sector

In what will undoubtedly be seen by all interested parties as a significant setback in the Federal Trade Commission’s active opposition to potentially anticompetitive healthcare collaborations, the FTC voted unanimously on Wednesday to dismiss its challenge to Cabell Huntington Hospital’s acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center – two hospitals serving patients in the Huntington area of West Virginia.  While the FTC continues to believe that the merger will result in significant anticompetitive harm, it chose to abandon the fight in light of the recent passage of West Virginia Senate Bill 597 (SB 597).
Continue Reading FTC Stands Down in Latest Head-to-Head Battle Between Federal and State Oversight of Healthcare Collaborations

On June 9, 2016, the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (“DoJ”) filed a complaint against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, d/b/a Carolinas Health Care System (“CHS”) in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. (United States of America and State of North Carolina v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Hospital Authority). The complaint accuses CHS of using “contract restrictions that prohibit commercial health insurers in the Charlotte area from offering patients financial benefits to use less expensive healthcare services offered by CHS’s competitors.” (Complaint, Preamble) In effect, the complaint is attacking a type of widely used contracting provision in which acute care hospital systems seek to prohibit insurance company payors from using “steering” restrictions, which would otherwise be used to steer their insured patients to lower cost healthcare providers, including lower-cost hospitals, in exchange for lower premiums in so-called “narrow network” insurance plans. The complaint then alleges that CHS has an approximately 50% share of the market for acute inpatient hospital care in the Charlotte metropolitan area, allegedly conferring market power on CHS.
Continue Reading U.S. Department of Justice Sues North Carolina Hospital System for Insisting on Anti-Steering Provisions in Insurance Reimbursement Contracts