St. Luke's Trial Highlights Mixed Healthcare Messages From Federal Government

Nov 12, 2013

A judge in Boise is now considering weeks worth of testimony in a case that could have significant effects on healthcare in Idaho and beyond. Attorneys representing several groups last week made their closing arguments against Saint Luke’s acquisition of the Nampa company Saltzer Medical Group. 

St. Luke's defended its 2012 buyout of a Nampa doctors group during a recent four-week trial. The outcome of the merger is now up to a judge.
Credit St. Luke's

The plaintiffs – including the Federal Trade Commission and competitor St. Alphonsus - sued Saint Luke’s. They contend last year’s deal gives the healthcare provider a monopoly in the region.  

Idaho Statesman reporter Audrey Dutton covered the trial. She says the deal in question was part of Saint Luke’s push to develop what’s known as an Accountable Care Organization. ACOs are part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and meant to incentivize hospitals into cutting costs.

"So the federal government on one hand is saying 'Hey, be really efficient and create Affordable Care Organizations'," she says. "And then on the other hand, you have the FTC saying you can't do that by violating anti trust law."

"Both of the health systems - and I think the government plaintiffs, too - really want what's best for the patient and the consumer," Dutton says. "They have different ideas on what 'best' is and how to get there. Overall, you have some folks who completely disagree on how to do things."

Dutton says the trial involved more than 30 attorneys trying to convince Judge B. Lynn Winmill to rule in their client's favor. 

"Overall there were fantastic points made," she says. "Both sides would take the same bit of information and come to two different conclusions about it."

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