DENVER (CN) - Four ambulatory surgery centers have sued HealthOne, Centura, Kaiser and an association that is supposed to act for the plaintiffs, in a federal antitrust complaint.
Kissing Camels Surgery Center LLC, Cherry Creek Surgery Center LLC, Arapahoe Surgery Center LLC and Hampden Surgery Center LLC sued HCA Inc., HCA-HealthOne LLC, Centura Health Corp., Colorado Ambulatory Surgery Center Association Inc., and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado, and their various subsidiaries and divisions, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
Plaintiffs allege federal and state contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade, and federal and state conspiracy to monopolize and attempted conspiracy to monopolize. They request to permanently enjoin defendants from entering into, or from honoring or enforcing, any agreements to limit competition in the market for surgical services not requiring hospitalization; treble damages; and costs, expert fees and attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs are represented by Whatley Kallas LLC: Joe Whatley Jr. of Aspen, Colo., Edith Kallas of New York, W. Tucker Brown of Birmingham, Ala., and Deborah Winegard of Atlanta.
The plaintiffs offer patients not requiring admission to a hospital for surgery a low cost alternative, according to the complaint.
But the defendant health systems have worked with insurance companies to keep the plaintiffs out of the market by excluding them from insured networks, encouraged doctors whom they employ not to refer patients to the plaintiffs, and discouraged health insurance companies from entering into contracts with plaintiffs and encouraged them to pay lower rates to doctors who do business with plaintiffs, plus other tactics in restraint of trade, the complaint claims.
The complaint states: "Defendants include the two most dominant private hospital systems in the State of Colorado. The defendant hospitals have significant market power in the Denver and Colorado Springs geographic areas included in this complaint. As those defendants realized that they could not compete fairly in the marketplace with plaintiffs, those defendants have abused their market power in an effort to put the plaintiffs out of business. Those defendants have conspired with each other and they have gained control over the defendant association that is supposed to represent the interests of the plaintiffs and brought that association into the conspiracy. Finally, they have used their market power and brought defendant Kaiser into the conspiracy and convinced Kaiser not to sign a contract that it had negotiated with one of the Plaintiffs. The defendant hospitals have also attempted to use their market power to influence other health insurance companies that do business in Colorado. The result is that plaintiffs and the patients they serve are being damaged."
The complaint also claims: "While the defendant hospital systems have formed surgery centers, those hospital systems have an inherent conflict of interest to direct as many patients as possible to the hospitals where the defendants are paid more for the services in order for the hospitals to cover their significant costs. In fact, through their relationships with doctors and otherwise, hospitals have the ability to direct many patients to the site where they will receive their procedures."