St. Luke's to appeal antitrust ruling, asks to keep Saltzer in the meantime

adutton@idahostatesman.comMarch 4, 2014 

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The Saltzer Medical Group in Nampa.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

The Boise-based St. Luke's Health System and Saltzer Medical Group of Nampa said Tuesday they plan to appeal a ruling from a federal judge that a buyout deal between the organizations violated antitrust law. In the meantime, they want the judge to allow them to stay together.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said at the end of February that St. Luke's must no longer own Saltzer Medical Group.

That was one month after Winmill ruled St. Luke's broke laws meant to protect competition when it bought Saltzer at the end of 2012.

Saltzer has remained under the St. Luke's umbrella since the ruling.

(READ MORE: Complete coverage of the St. Luke's lawsuit, including court documents and trial coverage)

The request for a "stay" while the businesses appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would give them "time to effectively look for ways to improve health care delivery without disrupting the Saltzer clinics and their patients," according to a St. Luke's press release.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden — who sued alongside the Federal Trade Commission, Saint Alphonsus Health System and Treasure Valley Hospital — said he will respond to the filing.

"We intend to defend the appeal with the same vigor we showed during the trial phase of the case," he said.

The filing by St. Luke's and Saltzer Tuesday said there is "no evidence that competition will be suppressed if Saltzer remains affiliated with St. Luke's during the pendency of the appeal — while there is substantial evidence that patients and Saltzer physicians and employees will be harmed if Saltzer is wrongly required to be divested."

St. Luke's and Saltzer argued that — even though the deal was structured so it could be reversed if the judge found it illegal — doctors will likely leave Saltzer if the group isn't part of St. Luke's during the appeal.

"Our request for a stay pending appeal recognizes, as the court has, that this case presents issues of both exceptional importance and substantial difficulty," said Dr. John Kaiser, president of Saltzer Medical Group. "St. Luke's is the partner we chose and St. Luke's is still the partner we want to work with. They have shown through this process that they are committed to the same ideals and values as we are."

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