Thursday, May 23, 2024
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HCA Healthcare, the largest for-profit hospital system in the United States, has failed in its attempt to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit in North Carolina federal court. The lawsuit accuses HCA of engaging in practices aimed at limiting competition and artificially inflating costs for health plans. Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger in Asheville ruled that the prospective class of North Carolina health plans can proceed with their antitrust claims against HCA, stating that the plaintiffs have provided plausible assertions that HCA’s conduct has harmed competition.

A representative for HCA, based in Nashville, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. In court documents, the company referred to the plaintiffs’ claims as baseless and argued that they only serve to increase hospitals’ expenses through high litigation costs. Mission Health, which was acquired by HCA in 2019 and is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, stated that it will vigorously contest the allegations.

The consolidated case includes lawsuits from various cities and counties across western North Carolina, including Asheville. The plaintiffs, who initially filed suit in 2022, allege that HCA and its Mission Health system hold an unlawful monopoly over general acute care services and outpatient services in the region. They claim that HCA imposes “all or nothing” contracts on health plans, limiting their ability to direct patients to lower-cost options.

Eric Cramer, a lawyer representing Asheville and other plaintiffs, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision to allow the case to proceed. He stated that they anticipate gathering sufficient evidence to support their allegations of anticompetitive behavior by the defendants, including monopolization of healthcare markets, price inflation, and reduction in healthcare quality across the region.

HCA operates nearly 200 hospitals in 21 states and reported revenue of nearly $65 billion last year.

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