Judge Sides With FTC, Ruling St. Luke's Violated Antitrust Law

A federal judge sided with the Federal Trade Commission today, ruling that Boise, Idaho-based St. Luke's Health System must unwind its 2012 acquisition of a 40-physician medical group, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said St. Luke's violated antitrust laws when it acquired Saltzer Medical Group in Nampa, Idaho, one of the largest independent multispecialty groups in the state. He said he would order St. Luke's to fully divest itself of Saltzer's physicians and assets, according to the report.

In March 2012, the FTC and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed an antitrust complaint to block St. Luke's Health System's acquisition of the group. The six-hospital system closed the deal in December 2012.

In its complaint, the FTC claimed the transaction left the combined entity with nearly 60 percent market share of primary care physicians in Nampa, which is the state's second-largest city.

Two of St. Luke's competitors, Saint Alphonsus Health System and Treasure Valley Hospital, both in Boise, also challenged the transaction. Those competitors claimed St. Luke's acquisition of Saltzer would leave the combined entity with control of more than two-thirds of primary care physicians in the area. The healthcare providers filed suit first, but their suit was consolidated in March with that of the FTC and Idaho AG.

St. Luke's argued that the acquisition would help the system provide more integrated healthcare. Judge Winmill agreed that the deal would have improved healthcare delivery in the region, but he ruled that "there are other ways to achieve the same effect that do not run afoul of the antitrust laws and do not run such a risk of increased costs," according to the report.

The merger was complete by the time the trial for the case took place last fall, but St. Luke's and Saltzer had not finished their integration. Judge Winmill issued only a summary of his ruling today. The full decision will remain sealed temporarily while confidential business information is redacted from the opinion, according to the report.

More Articles on the FTC and St. Luke's:

FTC Sues St. Luke's Health in Idaho Over Physician Group Acquisition
Testimony Ends in St. Luke's Antitrust Case
FTC: St. Luke's Has 57% Market Share With Medical Group Acquisition

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