A federal appeals court affirmed a lower court's decision to toss an antitrust lawsuit brought by a Little Rock, Ark., heart hospital and its physician investors against Little Rock-based Baptist Health and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Arkansas.
Federal court rejects Ark. antitrust lawsuit
The cardiologists alleged in the lawsuit that the six-hospital system and health plan conspired to restrain trade and monopolize the market for hospital-based cardiology services by booting the physicians of Little Rock Cardiology Clinic from 716-bed Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, as well as dropping the physicians and their 84-bed Arkansas Heart Hospital from the Blues' provider networks.
After the heart hospital was established in 1997, Baptist Health adopted a policy denying staff privileges to any physician with a financial interest in a competing hospital. Neither court delved into the merits of the antitrust challenge to the so-called “economic credentialing” policy or to the other elements of the alleged conspiracy.
Rather, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower ruling that the physicians failed to define product and geographic markets to underlie their claims. The court found, for example, that the plaintiffs couldn't reasonably limit their complaint to services provided to patients with private insurance.
A state judge, however, ruled in February that the policy interfered with the physician-patient relationship and enjoined the system from enforcing it.
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