- Union, California alleged market manipulation, inflated prices
- With monitor approved, final hearing on fairness in July
A $575 million settlement to end litigation brought by California and a joint union-grocery employer health plan accusing Sutter Health of anticompetitive behavior was preliminarily approved Tuesday by a state judge.
The closely watched case, had it gone to trial, could have resulted in a billion-dollar jury verdict against Sutter Health that analysts said could set a pattern for other regions with dominant industry players.
Judge Anne-Christine Massullo of the California Superior Court in San Francisco approved the proposed settlement after initially reject ing it last fall because she said the process for selecting a settlement fund monitor was skewed toward white males.
Massullo acted on the plaintiffs’ renewed motion, filed after a new four-month monitor search in which they selected Dionne Lomax, managing director of antitrust and trade regulation at Affiliated Monitors Inc. Lomax, a former member of Mintz Levin’s antitrust and trade regulation team in Washington, was a trial attorney in the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s Health Care Section.
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Sutter under the settlement will limit charges for out-of-network services and stop take-it-or-leave-it requirements for employers to pay for services they didn’t want in order to obtain services their employees wanted. The company also has to cooperate with the court-appointed monitor.
The settlement would end litigation alleging Sutter, the California health-care behemoth, used its market muscle to force terms and costs on plans. The United Food and Commercial Workers union and Employers Benefit Trust, representing self-funded plans in a class action, sued Sutter in 2014, alleging antitrust violations to manipulate prices.
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