Hospital-based home-care agencies have won a significant victory in federal court, beating back a challenge by a freestanding provider to a hospital's market power.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Murray Schwartz in Wilmington, Del., last month dismissed a lawsuit brought by Delaware Health Care, a home-care and infusion therapy provider, against Medical Center of Delaware in Wilmington and its home infusion business. Delaware Health charged in the suit, filed in 1994, that the medical center leveraged its strong presence to monopolize the area's home-care market.
In addition, Delaware Health contended the medical center had denied its patients access to home-care providers other than those it owned.
The judge, however, found that other referral sources existed for Delaware Health and that the medical center's patient discharge process was not essential to its survival.
William Dombi, vice president for law at the National Association for Home Care, an industry trade group, said the decision's impact is limited because antitrust issues tend to be resolved on a market-by-market basis.
But at the same time, Dombi said, the case lets home-care providers know a hospital will not be automatically in violation of antitrust laws when it markets its own home-care services to its patients.