Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch filed an antitrust lawsuit yesterday against Minneapolis-based Allina Hospitals and Clinics, a not-for-profit system that owns or operates 12 hospitals and 50 clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The suit, which was filed in Ramsey County Court in St. Paul, Minn., challenges Allina's purchase of two cardiology groups in the Twin Cities area as anti-competitive and alleges that the system is attempting to monopolize cardiology services in the metropolitan area. Allina already owns the region's largest cardiology group, Minneapolis Cardiology Associates, with 42 cardiologists.
A spokeswoman for Hatch confirmed the suit's filing. But Allina spokeswoman Terri Dresen said that the system has not acquired the practices. "We are not in discussions to merge or in any way acquire control of the two independent cardiology groups in the Twin Cities (26-cardiologist St. Paul Heart Clinic and Coon Rapids-based Metropolitan Cardiology Consultants, with 16 cardiologists). There was an initial exploration of a merger last year, but we abandoned that effort last year," Dresen said. "And we've repeatedly attempted to communicate that to the attorney general and those attempts have been rejected. We are confident that we can demonstrate in court that he is mistaken in his facts."
Dresen conceded that Allina is discussing quality issues with the two groups. "We want to make sure all our cardiologists are practicing in our hospitals the same way," she said. "That's what we think has confused Mr. Hatch. But we're talking quality, not merger."