Editor’s Note: CRE will be closely following this case. Lawsuits which potentially expose “the health care system to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages” threaten health care prices for all Americans.
From: Crain’s Chicago Business
A federal judge has granted class-action status to an antitrust lawsuit challenging NorthShore University HealthSystem’s acquisition of Highland Park Hospital, a ruling that potentially exposes the health care system to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for allegedly jacking up prices.
U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang on Dec. 10 ruled that a group of plaintiffs, including a painters union, met the legal requirements to represent other patients and health plans, a key turning point in the nearly seven-year legal battle.
At the heart of the case are plaintiffs’ allegations that NorthShore’s acquisition of Highland Park in 2000 gave it unfair power to set prices for medical care in the affluent northern suburbs. In court filings, NorthShore has denied improperly raising fees.
“We are confident there will be a rightful conclusion on this matter,” a NorthShore spokesman said in a statement. “In the meantime, our focus remains right where it belongs — on providing patients access to the highest-quality care in the most efficient way.”
The ruling raises the stakes in a case filed in 2007 in federal court in Chicago.
Among other findings, the plaintiffs’ expert, Northwestern University health economist David Dranove, estimated that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois overpaid $110 million because of the merger, a figure NorthShore disputes. The plaintiffs have not specified the amount of damages they seek to recover.
Moreover, under the federal Clayton Antitrust Act, NorthShore could be ordered to pay treble damages, or three times the difference between NorthShore’s allegedly elevated prices and what it would have charged if the Highland Park merger had never happened.