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BOISE, Idaho – St. Luke’s Health System learned yesterday that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Idaho Attorney General (AG) have decided to file a complaint in Federal Court against St. Luke’s. This action is related to the lawsuit filed by Saint Alphonsus and Treasure Valley Hospital to undo the affiliation of Saltzer Medical Group with St. Luke’s.
St. Luke’s is extremely disappointed by the FTC’s and AG’s decision to file suit. St. Luke’s and Saltzer affiliated because each of us believes that the coordinated delivery system that we are creating through the affiliation, will improve care for patients, help to contain costs, and ensure better health outcomes for the people we serve.
The FTC and AG are apparently concerned that St. Luke’s relationship with Saltzer could allow us to use our combined market power to raise prices. Significantly, however, the FTC and AG are not saying St. Luke’s has done this or even would do this. They merely allege that a price increase could be possible at some point in the future.
St. Luke’s entered into the relationship with Saltzer to increase quality, manage unnecessary utilization and ultimately reduce costs, not to raise prices. In fact, we offered specific proposals to the FTC and the AG designed to make certain that anticompetitive price increases would not occur.
This action by the FTC and AG is particularly disturbing because it seems directly contrary to the goal of health reform to develop physician-hospital relationships in which providers work as an integrated team to improve outcomes and reduce costs. We at St. Luke’s believe that these integrated teams of providers offer the best hope for addressing the fragmentation of the current health care delivery system. Our view is supported by the examples of such providers as the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente.
St. Luke’s has cooperated and engaged in productive discussions with the FTC and the AG’s office. We had hoped that these entities would come to understand that the Saltzer affiliation will result in better care at a lower cost for patients. Unfortunately they have not. Thus, we intend to prove our points in the federal court in Boise. We are hopeful that, once all the evidence is in, the court will conclude that the affiliation with Saltzer is in the best interests of patients and payers alike.
Ken Dey served as Public Relations Coordinator at St. Luke's from 2008-2014.
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