California files antitrust suit against Sutter Health: 5 things to know

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health, alleging the health system used its market power to control prices, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Here are five things to know about the lawsuit.

1. The attorney general filed the lawsuit against Sutter following a six-year investigation. At a news conference March 30, Mr. Becerra said the investigation revealed Sutter restricted health insurers from providing consumers with more low-cost health plan options, and the health system set excessively high out-of-network prices. Sutter also allegedly restricted publication of provider cost information, which impeded transparency.

2. The suit, which is pending in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleges Sutter uses improper tactics, such as "punitively high" out-of-network charges and gag clauses on prices, according to Kaiser Health News.

3. Sutter's actions "improperly block any and all practical efforts to foster or encourage price competition between Sutter and any rival healthcare providers or hospital systems," states the attorney general's complaint, according to KHN. "Sutter's conduct injured the general economy of Northern California and thus of the state."

4. In a statement to The Sacramento Bee, Sutter said, "healthy competition and choice exists across Northern California" for consumers seeking medical care. "Sutter Health is proud to save patients, government payers and health plans hundreds of millions of dollars each year by providing more efficient and integrated care," the statement said.

5. Sutter is also facing a class-action lawsuit filed in 2014 by employers and labor unions. The lawsuit accuses Sutter of abusing its market power to charge inflated prices.

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