Idaho Judge Says St. Lukes Acquisition Must Be Unwound


By Paul Johnson

Boise, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled this morning against St. Lukes hospital in a federal antitrust lawsuit. According to the judge, the health system broke antitrust laws following the purchase of Saltzer Medical Group. That group was the largest independent physicians practice. Winmill said, “The acquisition was intended by St. Luke’s and Saltzer primarily to improve patient outcomes. The Court is convinced that it would have that effect if left intact, and St. Luke’s is to be applauded for its efforts to improve the delivery of health care in the Treasure Valley.” He went on to say that there are better ways to achieve the same effect.

Attorney general Lawrence Wasden issued a statement following the judge’s decision. “We are very pleased with the judge’s decision and believe the ruling is good for the residents and consumers of the Treasure Valley and the region’s healthcare marketplace,” Wasden said. “We now look forward to working with St. Luke’s Health System and the Saltzer Medical Group in carrying out all that is required in the judge’s decision. What compelled me to get involved in this important case is a commitment to ensuring that Idaho’s laws protecting and promoting competition are upheld and that the marketplace is defended in a way to ensure the business climate in our state remains competitive. The resolution spelled out in the decision reaffirms my commitment to those goals.”

St. Luke's President and CEO, Dr. David C. Pate, issued the following statement: I am writing to you with surprising and disappointing news. Judge B. Lynn Winmill has ruled in the antitrust litigation, and he has ruled against us and our partners, the Saltzer Medical Group.
Our leaders, our boards, our employees, and our supporters know that St. Luke’s and Saltzer have been trying to do the right things for the right reasons to bring accountable care to the people of Canyon County.
The evidence presented by our attorneys told our story well and demonstrated that St. Luke’s was, and is, pursuing innovation and putting the best thinking of providers and public policy experts to use to truly improve health care for the people of Idaho. Even the court acknowledged that it was “convinced” that the transaction would improve health care if left intact, and said St. Luke’s was to be “complimented on their foresight and vision” for its efforts to improve the delivery of health care in the Treasure Valley.
“The Acquisition was intended by St. Luke’s and Saltzer primarily to improve patient outcomes,” the judge wrote in his decision. “The Court is convinced that it would have that effect if left intact …”
While this news is disappointing, our job and our journey remain the same. We must continue the hard work of changing the way health care is delivered. We know that the people of Idaho want and deserve better health, better coordinated care resulting in better outcomes, and healthcare providers to take accountability for these outcomes, including the cost of the care.
The court’s decision calls into question whether accountable care can be an option for the people of Idaho, and specifically those who live in towns like Nampa and Caldwell. We must expend the additional effort and resources necessary to ensure that these residents have a choice when it comes to their health care and hospital providers, though it will undoubtedly be more challenging and take us longer to achieve.
Though our job is made more difficult by this decision, and though our competitors have, in the near term, achieved their goal of slowing our progress, our commitment and determination is not diminished.
Thank you to our board members, who have been steadfastly dedicated to offering the best health care at the lowest cost to our communities. I admire and respect the Saltzer Medical Group for having the courage to stand up and fight for what is right against the significant resources of the federal and state governments, Treasure Valley Hospital, and the Trinity Health System. Thank you to our leadership teams, physician partners, and staff members, who have remained committed to our vision. And a special thanks to all the attorneys who so expertly and ably represented St. Luke’s and Saltzer.
We will review the judge’s findings and conclusions and anticipate appealing the decision. In the meantime, we will determine how we can work with Saltzer going forward to best serve the people of the Treasure Valley.
Thank you for all you do for St. Luke’s and our patients, and remain focused on your why. In the long run, winning or losing this case is not the measure of our success; the measure of our success is the extent to which we improve the health of the communities we serve, provide patients with the best possible outcomes and lower the cost of care for the people of Idaho.

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