SUMMIT-ALTA BATES: Five-Day Anti-Trust Trial Concludes
Closing arguments were heard by U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney yesterday, ending the five-day trial between the California Department of Justice and Alta Bates and Summit hospitals. Despite approval from the Federal Trade Commission, the state's Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) decided to pursue the matter in a federal court, arguing that "East Bay residents would pay more for hospital care if [Summit and Alta Bates] are allowed to merge." They predict the merger would raise the price of care in the area by 5% to 10%. Lockyer deputy John Donhoff, with the support of insurers and employers, said the merger would "substantially lessen" competition for acute care in the inner East Bay. He added, "The parties themselves and their customers admit it, their competitors swear to it and the economic analyses prove it ... underneath the testimony and document ... reveals the real reason (for the merger): to gain market power and raise prices." Hospital lawyers, however, argue that hospitals in the East Bay and in extended areas beyond the Oakland-Berkeley hills are all "competing vigorously" for patients, preventing price hikes. They further contend that the merger would benefit the public by saving Summit from bankruptcy. Sutter Health, parent company to Alta Bates, has also promised to invest $450 million into improvements for both hospitals over the next ten years. Judge Chesney still awaits additional documentation from both sides; it remains unknown when she will issue her decision (Rarick, Contra Costa Times, 11/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.