W.Va. hospitals agree to settle antitrust suit
St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., and Charleston (W.Va.) Area Medical Center have agreed to settle an antitrust lawsuit accusing them of illegally coordinating marketing campaigns for various services in the areas where they compete.
The hospitals allegedly curtailed competition for years by agreeing to divvy up geographic areas, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. For example, the government alleges CAMC agreed not to run print or outdoor ads in Cabell County, W.Va., where St. Mary’s is located. And St. Mary’s agreed not to run ads in Kanawha County, where Charleston Area Medical Center is headquartered.
“The agreement disrupted competition, deprived patients of information needed to make informed healthcare decisions, and denied physicians working for the defendants the opportunity to advertise their services to potential patients,” according to a Justice Department news release.
The government filed its lawsuit and the proposed settlement on Thursday. Attempts to reach St. Mary’s and CAMC for comment were unsuccessful.
The agreement, which still must be approved by a judge, would prohibit the hospitals from entering into any agreement to limit marketing or allo- cate services, customers or geographic markets. The hospitals would also have to appoint antitrust compliance officers.