Lawsuits pitting the Idaho attorney general’s office, the Federal Trade Commission and Saint Alphonsus Health System against St. Luke’s Health System and its quest to expand heads into federal court for a trial starting Sept. 23.
The Idaho Statesman reports that the point of contention is St. Luke’s acquisition of Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group.
St. Luke’s says growth and consolidation will result in better health care at lower cost.
But Saint Alphonsus and Treasure Valley Hospital, a small Boise surgical hospital, filed a lawsuit in Nov. 2012 contending that the acquisition would allow St. Luke’s to dominate the market in Nampa and block referrals to St. Alphonsus. And in December, they sought a preliminary injunction to stop the acquisition before the lawsuit is settled.
However, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in December that the acquisition could proceed because it could always be unwound if Saint Alphonsus and Treasure Valley Hospital win at the trial.
Meanwhile, the Idaho attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year became involved with a lawsuit of their own out of concern that St. Luke’s acquiring Saltzer Medical Group violated federal antitrust laws and Idaho’s Competition Act.
The lawsuits were combined for the federal trial that’s expected to take about a month.
Opponents of St. Luke’s say in court documents that St. Luke’s dominates the Twin Falls area in south-central Idaho and the result has been steep price increases. Attorneys say residents in southwest Idaho can expect the same if St. Luke’s is allowed to proceed with the Saltzer Medical Group deal.
St. Luke’s attorneys say St. Luke’s would lower prices if the deal goes through because of a contract it signed last year with a Utah-based health insurer SelectHealth. St. Luke’s said that deal is contingent on St. Luke’s having plenty of doctors in Nampa.
Both sides in the lawsuit contend that if they win, consumers will have lower-cost medical care and that Idaho residents with Medicaid will have more access to doctors.