Advocate Aurora used market power to suppress competition, lawsuit alleges

A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses Advocate Aurora Health of engaging in anticompetitive practices that have raised healthcare costs for Wisconsin employers. 

The lawsuit was filed May 24 in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin by Uriel Pharmacy, an East Troy, Wis., business with a self-funded health plan for its employees. 

It alleges that Advocate Aurora, dually headquartered in Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill., has used anticompetitive methods, including forcing commercial health plans to include all of its "overpriced" facilities in network, even if the plans would rather only include some. The provider also aggressively blocks employers and insurers from directing plan members to higher value care at non-Aurora Advocate facilities, according to the suit. 

The provider is also accused of going to extraordinary lengths to suppress innovative insurance products that would reduce costs for employers, such as tiered plans.

And Advocate Aurora uses a combination of acquisitions, referral restraints, noncompetes and gag clauses to suppress competition from other healthcare providers, the suit alleges, and attempt to expand its monopoly over acute inpatient hospital services into other, separate markets. 

In an emailed statement to Becker's, Advocate Aurora said that although it was just made aware of the lawsuit, it was already mounting a vigorous defense "as all of our decisions are guided by a relentless pursuit to provide the highest quality, affordable care for our patients." 

"Our data continues to demonstrate the added value we provide for our patients, communities and team members by growing as a system," the statement continued. "Through our population health model, we drive efficiency and quality improvements, enhance health outcomes and bend the cost curve."

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