Sutter Health's $575M antitrust settlement is final: 4 things to know

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo granted final approval of Sutter Health's $575 million antitrust settlement Aug. 27.

Four things to know:

1. The settlement was initially reached in December 2019 by Sutter and the parties that sued the Sacramento, Calif.-based system, including then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, unions and other employers. Ms. Massullo granted preliminary approval of the settlement March 9. 

2. The settlement resolves allegations that Sutter Health violated state antitrust laws by using its market dominance in Northern California to overcharge patients and employer-funded health plans. The lawsuit claimed that Sutter Health's higher prices led to $756 million in overcharges. 

3. In addition to the payment, the settlement requires Sutter to have its business operations monitored for a decade and mandates that the health system provide pricing, quality and cost information previously kept secret to insurers, employers and self-funded plans. The health system must also limit what it charges patients for out-of-network services to ensure those visiting out-of-network facilities don't face surprise medical bills, among other requirements.

4. "This is a groundbreaking settlement and a win for Californians," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. "Sutter will no longer have free rein to engage in anticompetitive practices that force patients to pay more for health services. Under the terms of our agreement, Sutter's transparency must increase, and practices that decrease the accessibility and affordability of healthcare must end. A competitive healthcare market is essential to ensuring patients and families aren’t bearing the brunt of healthcare costs while one company dominates the market."

Sutter Health shared the following statement with Becker's Hospital Review:

"Today's ruling brings closure to this matter, which was settled almost two years ago. This voluntary settlement enables Sutter Health to maintain our integrated network and ability to provide patients with access to affordable, high-quality care. Sutter’s quality of care is nationally recognized, with the majority of hospitals and care facilities outperforming state and national averages in many measures of quality. We look forward to continuing to work with our health plan partners at the same time we continue to care for the underserved in our communities."

Editor's note: This article was updated to include a statement from Sutter Health. 

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