Former Regence executive details how insurance plans tried to drive patients

adutton@idahostatesman.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Videotaped testimony shown Wednesday in the trial against St. Luke's Health System revealed that health insurance plans for Idaho Power and Boise School District were designed to their steer employees to Saint Alphonsus Health System. But the incentives didn't work.

For the school district, Regence BlueShield of Idaho's plan charged less for coinsurance at Saint Alphonsus hospitals than at other hospitals, said Scott Clement, a former Regence vice president.

The Regence plan for Idaho Power "involved ... the payment of an amount to Idaho Power employees who sought services from [Saint Alphonsus providers]," Clement said in his video deposition.

"It wasn't driving business, it just wasn't meeting expectations that both Idaho Power and Saint Al's had [about] how it would perform," Clement said.

The trial in U.S. District Court in Boise is considering whether St. Luke's broke antitrust laws when it bought Saltzer Medical Group, a Nampa business that employed a large share of the primary care providers in the area.

The Federal Trade Commission, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Saint Alphonsus and Treasure Valley Hospital allege that St. Luke's broke the law. Among other things, they say the buyout gives St. Luke's too much bargaining power with health insurance companies. Health insurers figure prominently in the case.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s courtroom was closed for most of the day Wednesday, the third day of the four-week trial. It was open in the morning for Clement's testimony and briefly in the afternoon for the start of testimony from an executive who was involved in a health network designed for Micron Technology.

The courtroom was closed for testimony from six witnesses.

Background and live coverage from Wednesday

Idaho Statesman reporter Audrey Dutton is in district court Wednesday reporting on the St. Luke's Health System trial. St. Luke's is being sued by the Saint Alphonsus Health System, which has been joined in the suit by the federal and state governments, over alleged antitrust violations related to St. Luke's acquisition last year of Saltzer Medical Group.

Saint Alphonsus says the acquisition seriously harmed its business by eliminating competition in the marketplace. St. Luke's opponents also say its growing stable of hospitals and medical offices has driven up health care costs for consumers. St. Luke's counters that its growth is having the opposite effect — driving down costs for citizens.

Follow below for live coverage of Wednesday's court testimony.

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