Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., and its Frye Regional Medical Center, Hickory, N.C., have agreed to a consent order settling charges that Frye's CEO helped form a physician-hospital organization that illegally fixed physician prices, the Federal Trade Commission said. The FTC also announced charges against the PHO, Piedmont Health Alliance, and 10 of its physicians whom the FTC accused of being centrally involved with the alleged price-fixing. Tenet and Frye did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement and did not pay a fine. The settlement marks the first physician price-fixing case to directly implicate a hospital as a participant in the conspiracy, the FTC said, noting the hospital's central role in developing and implementing the scheme. The case dates back to 1993, when Frye's CEO received approval from the hospital's board of directors to approach physicians who practice at Frye about forming a PHO as a response to managed care, the FTC said. The Piedmont Health Alliance was incorporated in 1994 and has about 450 physician members. Two independent, not-for-profit hospitals joined the for-profit PHA in 1996 -- Caldwell Memorial Hospital, Lenoir, N.C.; and Grace Hospital, Morganton, N.C., which is managed under contract by Carolinas Healthcare System, Charlotte. Tenet owns or operates 102 hospitals. -- by Vince Galloro
Tenet hospital settles doc price-fixing case
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