Hartford HealthCare hit with antitrust claims by rival

Two healthcare organizations in Hartford, Conn., are battling in federal court. 

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

"As a result of its acquisitions of physician practices and other anti-competitive conduct, Hartford HealthCare has substantially increased its hospital market share to dominant levels," states the complaint pending in Connecticut federal court. "At these dominant levels, Hartford HealthCare is in a position to dictate higher prices to health plans, thereby increasing healthcare costs to health plan members and patients."

Hartford HealthCare took the anti-competitive actions to increase market dominance, the lawsuit alleges. System executives allegedly repeatedly stated during meetings that their plan was to "crush" Saint Francis Hospital. 

"In every case where Hartford HealthCare has acquired a physician practice involving a physician who previously focused his or her patient care at Saint Francis, the physician has shifted all or virtually all of his or her cases to Hartford HealthCare," the complaint states. "Serious harm to Saint Francis will cause significant harm throughout the market, because only Saint Francis can provide a serious challenge to Hartford HealthCare's market position." 

The complaint alleges that the anti-competitive actions have harmed local hospitals, health plan members and patients. The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction prohibiting Hartford HealthCare's alleged anti-competitive conduct. 

Hartford HealthCare said the complaint is meritless and that it will defend against the allegations. 

"Our focus remains on serving the needs of our patients and our communities during this raging pandemic, as we care for more hospitalized COVID-19 patients than ever before," the system said in a Jan. 11 statement to Becker's Hospital Review.

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