St. Luke's CEO responds to antitrust suit

(TWIN FALLS) TIMES-NEWSApril 16, 2013 

The Federal Trade Commission and Idaho Attorney General's Office cite the Magic Valley as an example of alleged anticompetitive practices by St. Luke's Health System.

Their lawsuit, filed last month in Boise, focuses on halting St. Luke's Health System's acquisition of a Nampa medical group.

Dr. David Pate, CEO of St. Luke's, says regulators are using incomplete or misconstrued data to suggest that the health system "has taken advantage of the fact that it is a sole provider in the Magic Valley."

Pate says the health system's approach is that it needs to earn business every day and isn't taking its position for granted. Magic Valley residents could easily decide to go to other regional hospitals, he says.

"We are making sure people want to receive care from us," he says.

Pate says he strongly disagrees with the allegation that the experience of St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center can be a predictor of what will happen in Nampa.

Nampa is a "very different market," he says, where St. Luke's could not be the only provider.

St. Luke's proposed acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group in Nampa will "substantially lessen competition for healthcare services in and around Nampa," the lawsuit alleges.

St. Luke's has provided services in the Magic Valley since 2001, when it first began managing practices at the Physician Center of the former Magic Valley Regional Medical Center.

While some doctors belonged to the Physician Center, the clinic also served as a place for independent physicians to work and find patients.

In 2002, the two hospitals merged. Then in 2006, the county sold the medical center to St. Luke's.

About 90 of Twin Falls' roughly 130 doctors - 70 percent - were affiliated with St. Luke's by 2009.

St. Luke's Health System built a new $242 million hospital that opened in 2011.

The complaint alleges that rates at St. Luke's Magic Valley are "among the most expensive in the entire state, with rates rising much faster than the national average."

"Our information completely counters their assertion," Pate says.

St. Luke's Health System had an organization, Cleverley & Associates, compile information about prices.

A hospital charge index report, provided to the Times-News by St. Luke's, shows that St. Luke's Magic Valley ranks lowest in comparison with a handful of other hospitals in the state and region.

Data provided by St. Luke's shows a slight drop in prices from fiscal year 2011 to this year for the top five lab procedures performed within the health system.

For instance, information provided shows the price of a complete blood count dropped from $39.37 in fiscal year 2011 to $36 during fiscal 2013.

St. Luke's also provided information about prices for the top five imaging procedures. The price stayed the same for three of the five procedures.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service