By DON THOMPSON Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal jury on Friday rejected charges that a large Northern California health system abused its market power to drive up costs for consumers and businesses.
The verdict followed a month-long civil trial in a class action lawsuit against Sutter Health on behalf of more than 3 million employers and people served by the Sacramento-based nonprofit system.
The plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the company caused nearly $400 million in insurance premium overcharges between 2011 and 2017 and sought triple damages, up to $1.2 billion.
Lawyers who filed the antitrust lawsuit said Sutter Health, which operates 24 hospitals with more than 12,000 doctors and 16,000 nurses, struck deals with major insurance companies that discouraged patients from using lower-cost insurance and hospitals.
Sutter Health interim president and CEO James Conforti said the verdict is important not only for his company, “not only for Sutter Health, but for all health care providers in California.”
The decision, he said in a statement, “validates that health care providers, including physicians and hospitals, have the right to assess whether they participate in health plan networks and ensure they do not interfere with the ability to provide coordinated patient care and not give rise to surprise bills”.