Union Trust Sues Sutter Over Alleged Anti-Competitive Practices
On Monday, a union trust fund filed a lawsuit against Sutter Health claiming that the health system and its affiliates displayed anti-competitive behavior that resulted in "inflated prices that far exceed the prices its hospitals could charge in a free, competitive market," the San Francisco Business Times' "Bay Area BizTalk" reports.
Details of the Lawsuit
The suit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court by UCFW & Employees Benefit Trust, which represents more than 60,000 grocery store employees and their dependents enrolled in its self-funded health plans. The lawsuit is seeking class-action status.
According to "Bay Area BizTalk," the suit states that Sutter requires all health plans to include every hospital in its system rather than allowing plans to select facilities with the best rates and care quality.
The suit alleges that Sutter imposes contracts that charge higher "Chargemaster" rates for out-of-networks care. In addition, the suit claims some Sutter hospitals hold monopolies in certain regions of the state, allowing the health system to charge prices "as much as 56% or more" above competitors.
Sutter spokesperson Bill Gleeson said the health system has not yet reviewed the lawsuit. However, he said, "Allegations that Sutter Health negotiates prices with insurers on an all or none basis (are) simply not true."
He added, "We have dozens of products with large health plans that have parts and pieces of Sutter Health" offered through their networks, such as Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and the University of California.
However, Rick Grossman, lead attorney for the trust, said, "We're in it for the long haul and we expect to prevail" (Rauber, "Bay Area BizTalk," San Francisco Business Times, 4/7).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.