Sutter Health Wins Antitrust Case Amid Stronger Enforcement
Sutter Health, the nonprofit hospital system that dominates the Northern California market, recently won a class action lawsuit brought by individuals and small-group plan sponsors who accused the hospital system of anticompetitive practices, including price gouging. Experts tell AIS Health that the trial shows the difficulty of limiting hospitals’ price-setting power when they consolidate, and that robust antitrust enforcement — the kind that ended a proposed hospital system merger in Rhode Island — is critical to keep prices down.
In the lawsuit, according to a website maintained by the plaintiffs’ council, “plaintiffs claim that Sutter forced upon health plans certain pricing and contractual terms, and those practices and terms violated state and federal antitrust and unfair competition laws. Plaintiffs claim this caused the health plans to pay more than they otherwise would for Sutter’s hospital services, and that this resulted in higher insurance premiums for class members whether or not they used Sutter hospitals.”