CarePoint accuses RWJBarnabas Health of aiming to 'destroy' 3 hospitals in lawsuit

Bayonne, N.J.-based CarePoint Health has accused West Orange, N.J.-based RWJBarnabas Health of conspiring to eliminate competition — specifically three CarePoint-operated hospitals in Hudson County, N.J. — in a lawsuit filed Sept. 6. 

CarePoint alleges RWJBarnabas wanted to force Christ Hospital in Jersey City and Bayonne Medical Center to close, and acquire Hoboken University Medical Center for its "demographics and better payor mix." 

According to CarePoint's lawsuit, RWJBarnabas conspired with real estate players and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield — the state's largest health insurer — to drive traffic to its competing emergency rooms without required health department approval. 

"RWJ's pattern of serial acquisitions of competing hospitals and health care providers, as well as of the real estate necessary to operate competing hospitals, has gone unchecked by the state and NJDOH and has been tailored to destroy competition," the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit continues that RWJBarnabas exerted "undue influence" on the state's health department and governor to prohibit CarePoint from growing community programs, receiving government relief funds and maintaining a stable financial base. 

CarePoint alleges that in 2019, RWJBarnabas issued a false letter of intent to acquire Christ Hospital and Hoboken University Medical Center, intending to retrieve intelligence to halt growth at Christ Hospital. CarePoint says it originally believed the letter to be in good faith, but found during negotiations that RWJBarnabas intended to hold real estate "hostage." 

According to CarePoint's lawsuit, RWJBarnabas' actions violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and the New Jersey Antitrust Act and disregarded the needs of the poor, underinsured and charity patients CarePoint serves as a safety-net hospital. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, an RWJBarnabas spokesperson said CarePoint's complaints were baseless, the "results of [CarePoint leadership's] own poor business decisions and actions over the years." 

"RWJBarnabas Health has a longstanding commitment to serve the residents of Hudson County, and is proud of the significant investments we have made in technology, facilities and clinical teams as we advance our mission," the RWJBarnabas spokesperson said.

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