Judge says antitrust lawsuit against Carolinas HealthCare can move forward

A federal judge ruled last week that an antitrust lawsuit filed against Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare System can move forward, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the North Carolina Attorney General's Office filed the civil lawsuit last year, alleging that the health system illegally reduced competition in the Charlotte healthcare market by placing illegal contract restrictions on insurers that barred them from steering customers to lower-cost community hospitals. According to the lawsuit, the restrictions led to higher costs and fewer options for patients in the Charlotte region, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Judge Robert Conrad wrote in the March 30 ruling that it is "plausible" that CHS' contracts were in violation of antitrust laws. The DOJ and Attorney General's lawsuit is "full of reasons" to believe the system's market power could wage "genuine adverse effects on competition," according to the report. Judge Conrad made his ruling in response to a motion to dismiss filed by CHS.

In a statement to the Charlotte Observer, CHS said that although Judge Conrad is allowing the lawsuit to proceed, the court also "noted that Carolinas HealthCare System had outlined a strong challenge to the government's claims."

"Carolinas HealthCare System has not violated the antitrust laws and we look forward to further supporting our position in court. [We] remain committed to providing quality care to our patients," it added.

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