HCA hit with antitrust case, accused of driving up prices

HCA Healthcare, a for-profit hospital operator based in Nashville, Tenn., is facing another antitrust lawsuit. 

The city of Brevard, N.C., filed a lawsuit against HCA on June 3. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, alleges that the hospital operator engaged in an "anticompetitive scheme involving the illegal maintenance and enhancement of monopoly power" in the acute care hospital and outpatient care markets in seven counties in North Carolina. 

The allegations focus on HCA's 2019 acquisition of Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health. The lawsuit says HCA now holds monopoly power in seven North Carolina counties and has abused that power to inflate prices.

Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof said the community has repeatedly expressed concerns about healthcare prices and care quality issues to HCA. "Our attempts to address these concerns directly with HCA have been rebuffed," Ms. Copelof said, according to the Citizen Times

An HCA spokesperson, Nancy Lindell, said the lawsuit is "beyond disappointing" and that the company will defend against the allegations, according to the Citizen Times. She said a recent meeting between Ms. Copelof, other community leaders and HCA CEO Sam Hazen was productive and positive. 

"We hoped that meeting would be the beginning of a thoughtful and ongoing dialog about healthcare in the city of Brevard and the broader Transylvania County region," Ms. Lindell said, according to the Citizen Times. "In fact, we provided information requested during the meeting and hosted our first community council meeting just this week." 

This is the second antitrust case filed against HCA in North Carolina in the past year. In August, a group of Western North Carolina residents filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit alleging HCA engaged in anticompetitive tactics that resulted in lower quality care for patients and higher prices. The lawsuit, filed in Buncombe County on Aug. 10, alleges that after HCA purchased Mission Health, the for-profit parent company used a monopoly in Asheville to raise prices for both inpatient and outpatient care. 

HCA is defending against those allegations, and a decision is expected regarding whether it can move forward in Buncombe Superior Court, according to the Citizen Times.

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