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Feds accuse Carolinas HealthCare of restraint of trade


Photo by Grey Wulf

The Charlotte Observer reports that a federal lawsuit alleges that Carolinas HealthCare System, North Carolina’s largest hospital chain, illegally reduced competition in the Charlotte area, limiting patient choice and driving up costs.

The lawsuit alleged that Carolinas used “unlawful contract restrictions” to stop Greater Charlotte area insurers from suggesting that member patients use one of Carolinas’ competitors with lower prices.

HealthcareDive reported that the “contracts also encouraged insurers to promote use of CHS hospitals, and at least in one case stipulated an insurer in no way steer business away from CHS.”

The lawsuit accuses CHS of using the steering contracts with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Aetna Health of the Carolinas, Cigna Healthcare of North Carolina and United Healthcare of North Carolina, together having 85 percent of the commercial market in the Charlotte area.

A spokesman for CHS told the Observer the system’s contract provisions are not unique. “The system is being sued for something that takes place on a regular basis across the country,” he said.

In any event, the lawsuits reflects the Feds’ toughening attitude toward powerful hospital systems.


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