Oncology group sues Jefferson over 'anti-competitive' practices

A Pennsylvania oncology group is suing Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, both based in Philadelphia, for allegedly attempting to monopolize cancer care in the area, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported Sept. 7.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 5 by Sellersville-based Alliance Cancer Specialists, a medical practice with 36 oncologists. 

Alliance accused Jefferson of unreasonable restraint of trade, unfair trade practices, antitrust violations, tortious interference with business relations and breach of contract. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and an order blocking the system from terminating the hospital privileges of Alliance physicians.

The lawsuit said Jefferson is "very close to possessing monopoly power in oncology hospital services in Northeast Philadelphia." It noted the system has taken over multiple local systems and private physicians practices in the area.

Jefferson operates 17 hospitals in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. It attempted to buy Alliance in 2016, but the group chose to remain an "independent competitor to the ever-growing" Jefferson system, according to the suit. Since then, Jefferson allegedly has campaigned to eliminate Alliance's presence in the oncology market by applying pressure to Jefferson-employed physicians to refer patients only to Jefferson-affiliated physicians and facilities. The suit also claimed Jefferson has "admonished, intimidated and threatened termination or reduction in compensation" to its physicians that sent oncology patients to Alliance.

Alliance said it all culminated in the most recent "anti-competitive act" when Jefferson terminated the privileges of Alliance's oncologists at Jefferson Health-Northeast, effective Sept. 16.

Jefferson told the Business Journal: "As a matter of Jefferson policy, we do not comment on pending litigation. However, we intend to vigorously defend our position."

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