The FTC and the state attorney general say St. Luke's Health System's December 2012 acquisition of a major multispecialty practice, Saltzer Medical Group, was illegal because it will give the system too much power to raise prices. Attorneys for St. Luke's argue that the purchases of Saltzer and other physician practices around the state improve the continuum of care for patients and create operating efficiencies such as those encouraged by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
St. Luke's is also being sued in the same lawsuit by a competitor, St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Nampa, which says that St. Luke's past acquisitions have been followed by price increases, which it argues are an illegal “manifestation of market power.” St. Luke's argued that those previous price increases were not relevant.
The case signals heightened attention to physician deals by federal antitrust enforcers and is likely to be studied for years to come.
Follow Joe Carlson on Twitter: @MHJCarlson