As the antitrust case against St. Luke’s begins in federal district court this week, I thought it worthwhile to present a few thoughts about the case, which was filed by the Federal Trade Commission, the Idaho Attorney General, Treasure Valley Hospital and Saint Alphonsus Health System.
The Mission of Saint Alphonsus is to improve the health of our communities and provide healing and hope for patients close to home. That Mission drives all of our actions and decisions. We believe the best way to serve our communities is by ensuring patient choice through a robust network of both affiliated and independent physicians.
We believe that St. Luke’s Health System’s acquisition of the Saltzer Medical Group affects our ability to achieve our Mission in the Nampa and Treasure Valley communities and violates state and federal antitrust laws.
By acquiring Saltzer, in addition to more than 20 other independent physician groups it has acquired in the Treasure Valley, our case contends that St. Luke’s would command 80 percent of the Nampa market for adult primary care physicians. This action threatens to cripple competing hospital and physician networks, lead to fewer choices and higher costs for patients, and enable St. Luke’s to demand higher levels of reimbursement from health insurance plans … hurting Idaho employers and employees alike.
At Saint Alphonsus, we believe an open and pluralistic approach that includes both employed and independent physicians is essential and fundamental to our commitment to redesign our care delivery system. We do not believe we have to acquire independent physician practices to improve quality and lower costs. Rather, we believe a more inclusive system is more open to outside ideas, which places us in a better position to achieve innovation and quality gains.
As I wrote last November when we filed our original case, we did not arrive at the decision to file suit without a great deal of thought and reflection. But when St. Luke’s made the decision to complete the Saltzer acquisition – ignoring antitrust warnings from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office – we felt compelled to take action to protect our Mission and our community.
Everyone involved in the delivery of health care needs to follow the laws of our state and nation, which protect our communities against such anticompetitive actions. It is important to note that the Federal Trade Commission and Idaho State Attorney General, as well as Treasure Valley Hospital, joined us as plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit.
While it is difficult to predict when the judge will issue his ruling, we expect it to be sometime in mid to late December. Until then, it is my intent not to comment on the daily proceedings in court. The attorneys for both sides will argue the antitrust case and Judge Lynn Winmill ultimately will rule on the merits of those arguments. During the proceedings, we feel it is generally inappropriate to debate the points of law outside of Judge Winmill’s courtroom.
Our Saint Alphonsus journey to transform healthcare delivery will continue to be characterized by our deep commitment to work effectively with both independent and affiliated physicians, by our passion to bring God’s healing presence to those we are privileged to serve, and by advancing quality while stewarding the resources entrusted to us.
I have conveyed to the Saint Alphonsus network of physicians, colleagues and staff that during this time, the most important thing for them to do is remain focused on serving our patients and communities … faithful to our commitment to bring healing and hope close to home. That is the Mission that will not change, regardless of what happens over the next couple of months.