9th Circuit Affirms Idaho's St. Luke's Health System Violated Antitrust Laws

Feb 10, 2015

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court's ruling that St. Luke's Health System violated antitrust laws when it acquired Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group back in 2012.

Modern Healthcare reports the ruling is a win for the Federal Trade Commission, "in its first major case challenging a physician deal." 

The Idaho Statesman reports U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill let St. Luke's keep Saltzer while the legal process unfolded.

"Before the sale, Saltzer Medical Group was Idaho's biggest independent physician practice. Saint Alphonsus Health System, Treasure Valley Hospital, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the Federal Trade Commission all sued over the deal, claiming the purchase gave St. Luke's too much of the primary-care market in Nampa and would lead to higher prices." - Idaho Statesman

In a written statement, managers at competitor Saint Alphonsus Health System praised the 9th Circuit's opinion.

"Competition is important to the creation of a vital healthcare environment and fosters innovation, choice, accessibility and affordability," St. Al's President and CEO Rodney Reider said. 

A St. Luke's spokesperson says the ruling is disappointing.

"We just received the ruling this morning, so right now we are taking time to review the full decision and evaluate our next steps," Vice President of Communication Beth Toal said.

"Our job continues to be to work every day to provide better coordination of care and better outcomes for patients, while at the same time managing the costs of that care. There is a lot we can do, working in partnership with patients and providers. We think our collaborative approach is the path to a better health care system for Idahoans. While our business relationship with Saltzer Medical Group may need to change, our commitment to working with them and other providers throughout our communities to improve the way health care is delivered will not." - St. Luke's communication with employees after Tuesday's decision

Toal says it's not yet clear if the court has outlined next steps for the possible sale of Saltzer Medical Group, or what steps St. Luke's will need to take to remedy the court's decision.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says his office will now help St. Luke's to "fulfill what is now required."

“I appreciate today’s decision and what it means for consumers and the healthcare marketplace of the Treasure Valley,” Wasden said. “This case is important because it ensures Idaho’s laws will continue to protect and promote competition and a healthy, thriving marketplace, not just in southwestern Idaho but across the state."

You can read the 9th Circuit's ruling here.