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(Updated)CHI Franciscan, Washington state settle suit over alleged antitrust violations in physician group acquisition

State argued CHI Franciscan acquisition of WestSound Orthopaedics, professional services agreement with The Doctors Clinic violated anti-trust laws.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A lawsuit originally filed by the Washington state attorney general against CHI Franciscan, the parent company of Harrison Medical Center, that alleged improper relationships with two local physician groups, has been settled, the system confirmed in a statement.

THE IMPACT

The settlement came shortly before the case was set to go to trial in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington in Tacoma. CHI Franciscan and the state have until April 29 to settle the details, including any monetary amounts if applicable, according to a local report.

THE TREND

In 2016, in separate transactions, CHI Franciscan acquired WestSound Orthopaedics, a practice that included seven physicians, and struck a professional services agreement with The Doctors Clinic, a group that operated several clinics across the Kitsap, Washington area. That agreement kept the Doctors Clinic as an independent organization but stipulated that the group offer services only to CHI Franciscan's medical group. It also included the acquisition of the group's surgery, imaging and lab centers, the report said.

The state sued saying the deals limited consumer choice and would spark price hikes for care, alleged that the WestSound acquisition was illegal, and that both transactions violated state and federal antitrust laws.

"Both transactions enabled CHI Franciscan to capture more patient referrals and shift services to its wholly-owned hospital, Harrison Medical Center, the only civilian acute-care hospital in Kitsap County. The transactions have hobbled CHI Franciscan's competitors while allowing it to reap the benefit of more expensive, hospital-based rates. Overnight, commercial insurers saw double-digit percentage price increases. Rate increases hit the vast majority of procedures covered by contracts with the defendants. These increases were passed on to patients in the form of higher out-of-pocket costs,"  Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.

In early March, a judge struck down the complaint related to the WestSound deal, but the case against the agreement with the Doctors Clinic would have proceeded to trial.

ON THE RECORD

"Along with the court's recent judgment to remove WestSound Orthopaedics from the lawsuit, the settlement ensures CHI Franciscan's joint affiliations with WestSound and The Doctors Clinic remain in place. This is good for patients and doctors on the Peninsula, keeps our highly skilled doctors in our community, and ensures everyone has access to great care close to home," said Cary Evans, vice president of communications & government affairs for CHI Franciscan.

""The agreement benefits the people and the state of Washington, and addresses the concerns we expressed when bringing our legal action. The terms include a significant payment to the state and will restore competition and choices for health care services on the Kitsap peninsula, benefitting patients and doctors."AG Ferguson said in a statement.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sanborn@himssmedia.com
 

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