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Physicians group wins antitrust settlement from health system

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Photo by Faye Rollinson

A group  of independent physicians has won a settlement in its battle with a Central Florida health system, Rockledge-based Health First, over what the physician group says were anticompetitive actions that allegedly hurt the physicians’ ability to practice medicine.

Health First has four hospitals, a multispecialty medical group, outpatient services, such as home and hospice care, and health-insurance plans, including some for Medicare Advantage.

In 2013, a multispecialty medical group called Omni Healthcare  sued Health First and related defendants in federal court for antitrust violations.

These clinicians asserted that Health First used its market power to pressure the physicians to refer patients  almost exclusively to the system’s hospitals, physician specialists and ancillary services. The suit charged that those  who didn’t meet Health First’s demands were dropped from Health First’s insurance provider panels and its hospital medical staffs as well as boycotted by compliant physicians.

On Aug. 16, the second day of the trial, just after the opening arguments, a settlement was reached that  covered all the plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants.  No other terms of the settlement were disclosed.

Medscape added: “It is not known whether the settlement will reinstate physicians who were dropped from Health First insurance provider networks or from the medical staffs of system hospitals on account of allegedly anticompetitive actions by the system. Likewise, it’s not clear whether Health First will divest itself of the medical practice it acquired or the health plans it formed, or pay any money to the plaintiffs.”

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