A costly legal battle between PeaceHealth, a six-hospital Catholic system in Bellevue, Wash., and 106-bed McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Ore., ended today when the parties agreed to dismiss injunctive relief claims stemming from a federal antitrust lawsuit. Effective Jan. 1, 2005, McKenzie-Willamette joins PeaceHealth as a participating preferred provider in the Regence Blue Cross and Blue Shield Preferred Provider Plan. Terms of the settlement are confidential, according to a joint news release.
McKenzie-Willamette filed the suit in January 2002, alleging that PeaceHealth excluded it from providing care to more than one-third of Lane County's insured residents through its exclusive contract with Regence. The hospital also accused PeaceHealth of predatory pricing, an illegal tying relationship, restraint of trade and conspiracy to monopolize in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In October 2003, a jury in Eugene, Ore., agreed with some of those allegations and awarded the hospital $16.2 million in damages. Last month U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty refused PeaceHealth's request for a new trial. The settlement came as Haggerty prepared to rule on McKenzie-Willamette's request that PeaceHealth be ordered to divest its physician group, regularly report on its managed-care contracts and end its alleged anticompetitive behavior.
"This settlement means physicians and patients who prefer to come to McKenzie-Willamette will be able to return, beginning in January," hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Roy Orr said in a news release. PeaceHealth CEO Alan Yordy said the system is pleased that the case has been resolved. "Now we can get back to doing what we do best-providing the community with the best healthcare possible," Yordy said. -- by Mark Taylor