Appeals court rules against St. Luke's on physician group acquisition

A federal appeals court has affirmed that Idaho-based St. Luke’s Health System violated state and federal anti-trust laws when it acquired Saltzer Medical Group in 2012.

The Federal Trade Commission and the state of Idaho had filed suit in 2013 alleging that the acquisition of the 40-physician medical group by St. Luke’s would substantially reduce competition for healthcare services in around Nampa, Idaho, in violation of federal and state antitrust and competition laws.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirms the ruling by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, which found that that St. Luke’s had violated the law when it acquired Saltzer Medical Group and ordered St. Luke’s to fully divest itself of Saltzer’s physicians and assets.

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit is a win for consumers and healthcare competition in the Nampa, Idaho area. If left unchallenged,” said Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement, “St. Luke’s acquisition of Saltzer would have created a dominant provider of physician services for adults seeking primary care in Nampa, leading to higher costs for consumers and employers there. The acquisition would have delivered no benefit to consumers that could not be achieved in ways other than the anticompetitive merger.”

“I appreciate today’s decision and what it means for consumers and the healthcare marketplace of the Treasure Valley,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in a statement. “This case is important because it ensures Idaho’s laws will continue to protect and promote competition and a healthy, thriving marketplace, not just in southwestern Idaho but across the state. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirms the 2014 decision by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill, upholds my commitment to protecting and defending Idaho’s marketplace and competition laws."