A New Jersey district court recently denied a motion to dismiss Talone, et. al. v. The American Osteopathic Association, an antitrust class action. The suit alleges that the physician association violated the Sherman Act by illegally tying osteopaths’ board certification to association membership. The defendant association moved to dismiss, arguing that plaintiffs, a group of affected doctors, had failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate foreclosure of competition or antitrust injury. This alert reviews plaintiffs’ claims, the association’s arguments against them, and the court’s denial of the association’s motion to dismiss.
Dionne Lomax is a Member in the firm’s Antitrust and Health Law practices and is based in the Washington, DC office. She provides counsel and representation on health care–related mergers and acquisitions, international mergers, joint ventures, other commercial arrangements, antitrust investigations, and other antitrust matters. Dionne’s experience also includes serving as a trial attorney at the DOJ Antitrust Division Health Care Task Force Section.
In an opinion written by Judge Posner, the Seventh Circuit on Friday, June 9, 2017, affirmed OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s summary judgment win in a $300 million antitrust suit brought by a smaller competitor alleging unlawful exclusive dealing and attempted monopolization. This alert discusses the Court’s decision in this case, which is a notable precedent for hospitals and provider networks — particularly those with substantial market shares — that wish to negotiate narrow and exclusive network agreements with payors.
On March 30, 2017, in a closely watched case, a federal district court denied the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Carolinas Healthcare against a Complaint filed by the DOJ Antitrust Division and the State of North Carolina. The Complaint alleged that Carolinas Healthcare insisted on contract provisions with payors that limited or prohibited steering to lower-cost providers. In its motion, Carolinas Healthcare relied heavily on the Second Circuit decision in United States v. American Express Co., 838 F.3d 179 (2d Cir. 2016), where the Second Circuit had reversed a trial verdict condemning steering restrictions in Amex’s contracts with merchants. This alert reviews the court’s ruling and considers its implications for future health care antitrust cases.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the State of Illinois successfully concluded their challenge to the proposed merger of Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University Health System earlier this month, when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the health systems from consummating their proposed merger. The parties subsequently abandoned the transaction without appealing the district court’s decision.
The district court had previously denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. It believed that the geographic market proposed by the plaintiffs was too narrow and found the evidence “equivocal” regarding the importance of patients having access to hospitals close to their homes. As such, it held that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of proving a relevant geographic market and thus, did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. However, in October 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the issue of geographic market definition, holding that the lower court erred in its factual findings regarding critical aspects of the geographic market, as well as the remaining preliminary injunction elements that the district court did reach in its first decision.
This alert examines the court’s decision, which not only supports the FTC’s hospital merger enforcement program but continues to up the ante for merging parties attempting to persuade a court that the proposed efficiencies are sufficient to offset alleged anticompetitive effects.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) filed an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit stating that the Texas Medical Board’s (the “Board”) appeal was inappropriate and the Court does not have jurisdiction over the appeal. But the government did not stop there. The brief goes on to argue that if the Court does in fact find that it has jurisdiction, it should affirm the district court’s order denying the Board’s motion to dismiss and allow the case to proceed. Continue Reading Teladoc Receives Support from the Feds
In another procedural defeat for the Texas Medical Board (the “Board”) over its embattled telemedicine rule, last week, a federal judge held that the Board waited too long to request certification of appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Thus the Board’s existing appeal will move forward under the collateral-order doctrine. The Board’s brief is available here. Though this is a procedural setback for the Board, its appeal of the decision regarding its ability to escape antitrust liability under the state-action immunity doctrine is still pending before the Fifth Circuit.
As we have been closely following, in January 2015, the Board issued an “emergency” proposed rule requiring physicians to perform a face-to-face or in-person physical examination of a patient prior to issuing a prescription or risk sanctions for unprofessional conduct. Teladoc, Inc. and other Plaintiffs subsequently brought an antitrust claim against the Board alleging that the new regulation violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act and the Commerce Clause. The Board filed a motion to dismiss arguing (1) that the Board is entitled to state action immunity; (2) Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations; and (3) Plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Commerce Clause. A federal district court denied the Board’s motion to dismiss on all three grounds and specifically found that the Board is not entitled to state action immunity because its actions are not actively supervised by the state.
On June 17, the Texas Medical Board (“Board”) filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reiterating that the Board’s rulemaking processes are protected under the state action immunity doctrine, noting that the case could significantly impair state agencies in carrying out their governmental functions. The Board’s brief is the most recent action in the Teldoc case that has dragged on for almost two years and left little certainty for those who provide telemedicine services in the State.
As we previously reported, it all began when the Texas Medical Board issued an emergency proposed rule clarifying that physicians must perform a face-to-face or in-person physical examination of a patient prior to issuing a prescription or risk sanctions for unprofessional conduct. Teladoc, whose business model is based on providing health care services via telephone and without a face-to-face or in-person physical examination, sued the Texas Medical Board, alleging that the proposed rule violated antitrust laws. Late last year, a federal district court denied the Texas Medical Board’s motion to dismiss, finding that the Board is not entitled to state action immunity because its actions are not actively supervised by the state. Continue Reading Texas Medical Board Seeks State Action Immunity Protection in Fifth Circuit Brief
On Tuesday, June 14, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois declined to temporarily block the proposed merger of Advocate Health Care Network and NorthShore University HealthSystem in the Chicago area, handing the FTC its second hospital merger loss this year. The FTC and the State of Illinois filed an administrative complaint in December 2015, seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to block the transaction. As discussed in our previous blog post, the FTC alleged that the combined entity would operate the majority of the hospitals in the North Shore area of Chicago, and control more than 50% of the general acute care inpatient hospital services. Continue Reading FTC Suffers Another Hospital Merger Loss in Advocate-NorthShore
A popular weapon used to contain health care expenditures is the creation by payors and employers of tiered provider networks, which by differentiated co-pays attempt to steer insureds to less expensive choices. In connection with such networks, providers will often provide better pricing in order to be placed on more favorable tiers. In a new antitrust suit, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the State of North Carolina have challenged the attempt by the dominant health care system in North Carolina to use contractual anti-steering provisions to avoid being disfavored. This Alert analyzes the Government’s complaint and how this lawsuit fits into the DOJ’s views of contractual restraints of this type.
The Third Circuit granted on Tuesday the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) request for an injunction pending appeal of the proposed merger between Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Pinnacle Health System. The injunction comes just before the temporary restraining order against the merger issued by the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania was set to expire on Friday. Earlier this month, the district court denied the government’s request to block the merger. Continue Reading FTC Wins Stay of Pennsylvania Hospital Merger Pending Appeal in Third Circuit