W.Va. hos­pi­tals agree to set­tle an­titrust suit

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Lisa Schencker

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.

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