St. Luke's Appeals Antitrust Decision Ordering Divesture of Saltzer

Boise, Idaho-based St. Luke's Health System filed an appeal Thursday seeking a reversal of a January court decision that ordered St. Luke's divesture of Saltzer Medical Group.

In January, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill concluded St. Luke's 2012 acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group, one of the largest independent multispecialty groups in the state, would cause substantial anticompetitive effects. The decision was brought after the Federal Trade  Commission and Boise-based Saint Alphonsus Health System and Treasure Valley Hospital, challenged the acquisition.

St. Luke's filed its appeal yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. System President and CEO David Pate, MD, JD, said the appeal is not something St. Luke's takes lightly.

Dr. Pate noted that the outcomes of the appeal will have far-reaching effects on other health systems pursuing value-based care delivery and clinical integration.

"The 9th Circuit's ultimate decision will determine whether antitrust laws can be used to prevent integrated health systems in small and mid-sized markets from tightly affiliating with physician groups in order to improve the quality of healthcare and move to a value-based system of payment for services that will improve health, allow for new and better models of care, expand access to patients on Medicare and Medicaid, and lower the overall costs of care — a move that is encouraged and promoted by the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act," Dr. Pate said in the release. He also wrote a blog post about the decision to appeal.

In his decision January decision, Judge Winmill noted that the acquisition was intended by St. Luke's and Saltzer primarily to improve patient outcomes, and "the court believes that it would have that effect if left intact. Still, he said there are other ways to achieve the same effect that do not run afoul of antitrust law and do not run such a risk of increased costs.

Judge Winmill also said the combination of five-hospital St. Luke's with Saltzer resulted in 80 percent of the primary care physicians in Nampa. Size was not the only factor in play, however: "the sterling reputations" of Saltzer and St. Luke's make it the dominant provider in the Nampa area for primary care and give it "significant bargaining leverage" over health insurance plans, he wrote.

For additional background, here are 10 things to know about the St. Luke's decision from earlier this year.

View St. Luke's appellate brief filed Thursday.

More Articles on St. Luke's Health System:
The St. Luke's Antitrust Case: 10 Things to Know
FTC Sues St. Luke's Health in Idaho Over Physician Group Acquisition
Judge Sides With FTC, Ruling St. Luke's Violated Antitrust Law


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