On June 2, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a pair of antitrust enforcement actions to block pending health system transactions that, according to it, would harm competition in the provision of inpatient general acute care hospital services.
On March 24, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a joint statement on COVID-19-related antitrust enforcement highlighting ways “firms, including competitors, can engage in procompetitive collaboration that does not violate the antitrust laws” to protect public health and safety. The DOJ and FTC emphasized their commitment to facilitating antitrust compliance for businesses that are responding to the national emergency. In furtherance of this position, the agencies gave examples of collaborative activities designed to improve health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic that are unlikely to run afoul of the antitrust laws, absent exceptions. These include:
- Collaboration on research and development as “efficiency-enhancing integration of economic activity” which is typically procompetitive.
- Sharing technical know-how – rather than company specific data about prices, wages, outputs, or costs – as necessary to achieve procompetitive benefits of collaboration.
- The “development of suggested practice parameters – standards for patient management developed to assist providers in clinical decisionmaking” by providers will not be challenged except in extraordinary circumstances.
- Joint purchasing arrangements among health care providers “designed to increase the efficiency of procurement and reduce transaction costs.”
- “[P]rivate lobbying addressed to the use of federal emergency authority, including private industry meetings with the federal government to discuss strategies on responding to COVID-19, insofar as those activities comprise mere solicitation of governmental action with respect to the passage and enforcement of laws.”
On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction granted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and North Dakota Attorney General (NDAG) blocking the proposed acquisition of Mid-Dakota Clinic, P.C. (MDC) – a multispecialty physician group in North Dakota – by Sanford Health, a large South Dakota-based health system (Sanford). This decision may foreclose continued pursuit of MDC by Sanford, and represents another success for the FTC in challenging health care consolidation (see our previous analysis of the granting of the injunction here, and of the FTC’s intervention here).
Continue Reading Eighth Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction Blocking Physician Practice Acquisition in North Dakota
On May 12, 2017, Anthem Inc. announced that it had terminated its merger agreement with Cigna Corporation, a deal that would have united the second and third largest sellers of health insurance to large companies in the country. Anthem’s termination of the merger came two weeks to the day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected Anthem’s appeal of an injunction blocking the merger issued by a U.S. District Court earlier this year. Anthem terminated the merger one week after filing a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court that sought guidance on the viability of the “efficiencies defense” under antitrust law.
Anthem and Cigna initially entered into a merger agreement in July, 2015 that was subsequently challenged on antitrust grounds by the Department of Justice, eleven states, and the District of Columbia. The government alleged that the merger would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. §18) by substantially lessening competition in the insurance markets for (i) national accounts (i.e., insurance purchased by employers with 5000+ employees), and (ii) large group employers (those with 50+ employees) in various geographic areas throughout the country.
Continue Reading Anthem Terminates Cigna Merger Following D.C. Circuit Setback
On March 30, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina rejected a motion for judgment on the pleadings (akin to a motion to dismiss) by Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) in a novel health care antitrust suit brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and State of North Carolina (collectively, the Government).
The Government filed suit against CHS, a health system consisting of 10 hospitals in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, in June 2016, alleging that contractual provisions mandated by CHS in its contracts with health insurers that sought to prevent insurers from establishing narrow networks or otherwise incentivizing insureds to see lower cost providers than CHS violated federal antitrust law. Specifically, the Government alleges that CHS’s contractual restrictions on “steering” by insurers—that is, not contractual provisions requiring that insureds be steered to CHS but rather contractual provisions that prevented insurers from steering insureds away from CHS—constitute unreasonable restraints on trade in violation of the Sherman Act. In its complaint, the Government describes “steering” as a competitive behavior that may refer to the insurer practice of offering tiered provider networks (with copayments varying by provider tier) as well as narrow-network plans (offering lower prices to insureds in exchange for a more limited provider panel).…