Health Care Antitrust Alert - DOJ Reaches Settlement Prohibiting Hospital from Entering into Anticompetitive Contracts with Health Insurers

The Obama Administration’s DOJ Antitrust Division has highlighted reinvigorated enforcement of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and strong antitrust enforcement in health care markets as two of its priorities. Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, withdrew the controversial Section 2 enforcement policy report issued during the Bush Administration as one of her first official actions.1 Likewise, one of Ms. Varney’s major policy speeches, delivered almost a year ago, focused on health care antitrust enforcement.

On February 25, 2011, those two enforcement priorities converged as the Antitrust Division and the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against, and proposed settlement with, United Regional Health Care System of Wichita Falls, Texas. U.S. and State of Texas v. United Regional Health Care System, No. 7:11-cv-00030-O (N.D. Tex, Feb. 25, 2011). The complaint alleged that United Regional had violated Section 2 by entering into contracts that improperly inhibited commercial health insurers from contracting with United Regional’s competitors. This is the first case brought by the DOJ since 1999 alleging that a monopolist has engaged in traditional unilateral anticompetitive conduct.

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