The 1994 merger that created Susquehanna Health System, Williamsport, Pa., was legal, a U.S. District judge ruled in summary judgment dismissing an antitrust challenge by HMO HealthAmerica Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. Judge Christopher Conner in Harrisburg, citing an earlier antitrust case, said an organization cannot conspire with itself. In a 2000 lawsuit, HealthAmerica contended that the merger was a sham allowing Susquehanna Health System, its three hospitals and associated physicians to exploit market power to extract higher prices from payers. Conner ruled that HealthAmerica lacked sufficient evidence to prove the allegations and also failed to establish harm from the alleged conduct. The HMO's attorney, William Kopit of Epstein, Becker & Green in Washington, said he believes there are grounds for an appeal, but no decision has been made. Susquehanna President and CEO Kirby Smith said he's delighted that the court recognized Susquehanna as a single, integrated organization. -- by Mark Taylor
Pa. system no sham, judge rules in antitrust case
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