A consent decree settled a private antitrust case against the only radiology practice in Missoula, Mont., and an imaging center owned by the practice and 146-bed Community Medical Center, Missoula. According to the suit, 13-physician Missoula Radiology signed exclusive contracts with Community and Missoula's only other hospital, 200-bed St. Patrick Hospital, and the hospitals agreed not to compete with the imaging center for outpatient tests. The plaintiffs -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, four businesses and five members of the Blues plan -- alleged that the combination effectively barred new radiologists from entering the market. The hospitals were not named in the lawsuit. The consent decree, issued by U.S. District Court in Butte, Mont., bars the practice, its members and the imaging center from exclusive contracts with any hospital in western Montana hospitals for two years. The parties settled without admitting wrongdoing.
Michael Bissegger, of Epstein, Becker & Green in Washington, who represented the Blues plan and its members, said his clients were pleased with the decree, although there was no monetary settlement. "They definitely had exclusive contracts," Bissegger said of the radiology group, "and we'd heard they were renegotiating them." The group's manager, Shannon Williams, said Missoula Radiology has had exclusive contracts in the past but had none at the time of the 2004 suit. -- by Mark Taylor