The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a lower court's decision that Atrium Health is immune to antitrust lawsuits due to its status as a "local government unit.
The justices declined a petition to revive a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that Atrium uses its dominant market position to stop insurers from guiding patients toward less expensive healthcare options.
An Atrium Health patient initially sued Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority—Atrium's business entity—in 2018. A federal court in North Carolina and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled against the patient. The Fourth Circuit in April said even though the multistate public hospital system has sustained significant growth, it is still designated as an arm of local government and is therefore protected from antitrust actions.
The appellate court said that lawmakers rather than the courts should determine Atrium Health's designation, since it involves significant policy considerations.
The patient appealed to the Supreme Court in August, claiming Atrium has outgrown its original "local" classification. The appeal asserted that the antitrust immunity law was meant to cover institutional units with authority over small geographical areas and not a several-billion-dollar hospital system operating in multiple states.
Atrium officially opposed the appeal in October, telling the justices that North Carolina's high court says it qualifies as a local government entity.