Blues, Illinois system hit with antitrust suit
An ambulatory surgery center in Illinois filed an antitrust lawsuit against the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, and the dominant health system in two southern counties, alleging an illegal business arrangement to establish a monopoly that increases consumers’ prices and prevents smaller healthcare providers from entering the market. Marion HealthCare alleges in its lawsuit that threehospital Southern Illinois Healthcare, Carbondale, has signed contracts with Blue Cross that force the insurer to exclude smaller healthcare providers from its network as a way to preserve its monopoly. Marion also claims that Blue Cross has sent “threatening letters” to physicians warning them not to treat patients at out-of-network providers such as Marion. The lawsuit, filed Aug. 3 in U.S. District Court in Benton, Ill., states Southern Illinois controls more than 85% of the market for outpatient services in Williamson and Jackson counties. Blue Cross has more than 6.5 million members in Illinois, a state with about 12.9 million residents, according to the lawsuit. Mary Ann Schultz, spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and parent company Health Care Service Corp., declined to comment on the lawsuit. Rosslind Rice, spokeswoman for Southern Illinois Healthcare, said the health system does not comment on pending litigation. Marion is seeking actual and treble damages and an injunction against price discrimination by Blue Cross.