Saint Francis is suing Hartford HealthCare alleging anti-competitive practices

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Cloe Poisson :: CTMirror.org

Main entrance to Saint Francis Hospital on Woodland Street in Hartford.

Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center has sued Hartford HealthCare and its subsidiaries, including Hartford Hospital, alleging that it is trying to create a monopoly on hospital services by buying out networks of doctors, particularly cardiologists, and demanding that they only serve their patients Refer to Hartford HealthCare.

The 75-page lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in New Haven, alleges “a campaign of marginalization, takeover and intimidation” and alleges that Hartford HealthCare executives have stated in meetings that their plan is to “defeat St. Francis” to crush “or to” bury “.

The lawsuit alleges that, having acquired medical practices over the past four years, Hartford HealthCare threatened and intimidated doctors who do not adhere to his “dictation”.

The lawsuit sheds light on many issues that would normally go behind closed doors but could air in a courtroom as the two giants lead a legal battle that could affect the delivery of health care in the Hartford area for years to come.

Hartford HealthCare officials issued a statement on the lawsuit late Tuesday evening.

“We believe the complaint filed by St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is unfounded. Hartford HealthCare denies these allegations and we will vigorously oppose them. Our focus remains on meeting the needs of our patients and our communities during this raging pandemic as we care for more hospitalized COVID-19 patients than ever before. “

A spokesman for Trinity Health of New England, parent company of St. Francis, made a statement Tuesday evening: “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that residents of the greater Hartford area have access to quality health care at a lower cost.” . “

Saint Francis is seeking monetary damages, a court order to divest all medical practices Hartford HealthCare has acquired since 2020, and an injunction banning what is termed “anti-competitive behavior”.

Although Hartford HealthCare, which operates Hartford Hospital, offers “higher cost, lower quality health care” than its competitors, it is entering the market with lucrative surgeries such as cardiac and orthopedic surgeries by forcing doctors to only see their patients in Hartford HealthCare Sending hospitals or obtaining exclusive rights to robotic equipment – notably a “mako” robot used in many knee and other bone surgeries, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that other hospitals in the Hartford area – the Manchester Memorial Hospital, the University of Connecticut’s John Dempsey Hospital, and the Bristol Hospital – are also suffering from Hartford HealthCare’s “anti-competitive behavior”.

She also claims that Hartford HealthCare and its network “have disrupted the use of ‘tiered’ networks through managed care plans that enable employers and consumers to get cheaper, higher quality health care at a preferential rate”.

The lawsuit names 21 doctors whose practices have been acquired by Hartford HealthCare over the past four years, and nine others who have exclusively joined Hartford HealthCare’s network known as Integrated Care Partners or ICP.

Among them is Ulysses Wu, an infectious disease specialist who has spoken to media outlets like CT Mirror about the COVID pandemic. Saint Francis also lost Muzibul Chowdhury, a cardiologist, to Hartford HealthCare, the lawsuit said.

“Dr. Chowdhury admitted most cardiology cases to Saint Francis prior to acquisition,” the lawsuit states. “Many of these losses are particularly damaging to St. Francis and to competition that is disproportionate to the number of doctors lost. “

“Hartford HealthCare’s acquisition of medical practices from cardiologists is particularly detrimental to Saint Francis and Hartford HealthCare’s other hospital competitors. Because cardiac and cardiac surgery cases are among the most profitable cases for hospitals and therefore the loss of such cases is particularly harmful. “

“Intimidation campaign”

Hartford HealthCare’s growth was “aided by its intimidation campaign,” the lawsuit said. “Hartford HealthCare has told some doctors that Hartford HealthCare would ‘crush’ them if they didn’t come into his office.”

The lawsuit alleges that, in some cases, Hartford HealthCare executives “specifically stated that Hartford HealthCare would hire a doctor to specifically compete against that doctor if the doctor did not become Hartford HealthCare. In other cases, Hartford HealthCare has threatened medical specialists with the loss of referrals from its more than 50 employed GPs. “

The lawsuit alleges that Hartford HealthCare is in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and the federal Sherman Act by “unreasonably restricting trade in each of the relevant markets.”

They argue that the creation of a monopoly will allow them to set higher prices, and the hospital’s wide range of doctors forced the health plans to accept them.

“Hartford HealthCare charges higher prices in part because it is more expensive than Saint Francis or other hospitals in the area. For example, even after adjusting to the complexity of the cases, patients at Hartford Hospital stay in hospital 10% longer than if they were hospitalized at Saint Francis, ”the lawsuit said.

“This increases both costs and quality, as longer hospital stays run the risk of possible hospital infections. Also, patients may not be able to return home as quickly as they would like. Hartford HealthCare can maintain its dominant position despite these deficiencies due to its market power and anti-competitive behavior. “

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