Connecticut residents file antitrust lawsuit against Hartford HealthCare

Six Connecticut residents filed a lawsuit against Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare, alleging that the health system used unlawful and anticompetitive methods to drive up healthcare prices in the state. 

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 14 in the Connecticut Superior Court's Hartford district, claims that the health system worked to restrain trade, acquire a monopoly of inpatient hospital services and abuse its market power to charge higher prices to insurers, employers and patients. 

In particular, the plaintiffs allege that the prices at Hartford HealthCare's facilities are routinely more than 20 percent higher than the nearest competitor and that prices for high-volume procedures are hundreds of dollars more than at nearby hospitals. 

The complaint also alleges that Hartford HealthCare negotiates with commercial health plans on an "all-or-nothing" basis, telling insurers that if they want the best facilities in its network, they must include all of its facilities. Further, the plaintiffs allege that the health system limits commercial health plans' ability to provide customers with "truthful information and monetary incentives to encourage their members to obtain care" from competitors that offer cheaper or higher-quality care options.

"As a result, Connecticut patients and employers are overcharged tens of millions of dollars every month by HHC," the complaint alleges. "These overcharges come in the form of premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copays that are substantially higher than they would be absent HHC's anticompetitive conduct."

The Connecticut residents are asking the court to certify their complaint as a class action, rule that Hartford HealthCare monopolizes the market, and award damages, among other requests. 

This is the second antitrust suit filed against the health system this year. On Jan. 11, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center filed a lawsuit against Hartford HealthCare, alleging that the health system monopolized regional medical care by acquiring physician practices and demanding that physicians refer cases to its facilities, regardless of whether that is best for patients. 

Hartford HealthCare didn't respond to Becker's request for comment by the time of publication.

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