Humana can't seal documents in antitrust suit involving Louisiana health system

Although not a litigant, Humana can't seal confidential business documents that a judge ordered unsealed but redacted in a larger antitrust lawsuit, according to court documents.

Five things to know:

1. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana previously ordered Humana to unseal and redact documents to file on a public docket related to ongoing litigation not involving the insurer. Humana appealed the order. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit concluded the district court didn't abuse its discretion in issuing the order, and followed proper legal standards.

2. The antitrust action underlying the interlocutory appeal concerns BRF — a former hospital operator in Shreveport, La. — the regional Vantage Health Plan and Shreveport-based Willis-Knighton Health System. BRF and Vantage filed a lawsuit against Willis-Knighton in 2015 alleging the health system conspired with Louisiana State University's Shreveport medical school to run BRF and then-subsidiary University Health Hospital Shreveport out of business. LSU is not being sued.

3. The plaintiffs claim Willis-Knighton, through LSU's medical school, siphoned off commercially insured patients from BRF and University Health Hospital Shreveport. Vantage claims Willis-Knighton locked it out of the Shreveport market entirely. Willis-Knighton has denied all allegations and requested the lawsuit be dismissed. Even though BRF left the hospital business Oct. 1, 2018, it retained ownership of its lawsuit.

4. Once plaintiffs learned of documents related to an alleged agreement between Willis-Knighton and Humana, Vantage served two subpoenas on Humana to glean the documents. The court granted Vantage's motion to compel and ordered Humana to produce the 50 documents, including emails and draft contracts, after Humana refused to comply.

5. In its appeal, Humana said making the documents available would provide its competitors with confidential information like "negotiating strategy, prices, rates, projections, and other financial information," according to court documents. However, the court said its order was not an abuse of discretion.

"The court conducted multiple hearings, which offered Humana an ample, but squandered, opportunity to defend the entire confidentiality of its documents. Finally, the court attempted to protect Humana's legitimate business needs by redacting competitively sensitive confidential information," according to the documents.

Becker's Hospital Review reached out to Humana for comment. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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