St. Luke's Health System in Boise, Idaho, may continue to operate Nampa, Idaho-based physician practice Saltzer Medical Group, despite a January judicial order to divest, a federal judge ruled Friday.
St. Luke's filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in June after U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ordered that it unwind its acquisition of Saltzer
. After granting a stay of the divestiture order last week, the Ninth Circuit also said it would hear St. Luke's appeal on the earliest available court date.
According to the original case's plaintiffs, St. Luke's competitors St. Alphonsus Health System and Treasure Valley Hospital, the Federal Trade Commission
, and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, the St. Luke's-Saltzer deal violated antitrust
The plaintiffs argued that the acquisition of Saltzer would give St. Luke's control of about 80% of the Nampa primary-care market, thereby allowing it greater leverage with health plans which in turn would drive up healthcare prices in the area just west of Boise. Winmill agreed and ordered that St. Luke's give up Saltzer.
At the time of the January ruling, St. Luke's officials said they were “extremely disappointed,” and in June, filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit asking for a reversal of Winmill's decision.
St. Luke's argued that the affiliation enhanced access to care for local residents and allowed Saltzer to provide services to more low-income, Medicaid and Medicare patients.
America's Essential Hospitals agreed, filing a brief in support of St. Luke's
that said the lower court's decision, if upheld, would “have a chilling effect, deterring essential safety net hospitals from pursuing tight integration as a strategy to improve access to high-quality, coordinated care for vulnerable patients.”Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden