LOS ANGELES–March 30, 2021—Huntington Hospital and Cedars-Sinai today filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the California Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General.
The suit challenges unprecedented conditions imposed by the Attorney General that would jeopardize Huntington’s and Cedars-Sinai’s ability to meet the community’s need for access to coordinated, specialized healthcare; lower costs; and provide resources needed for Huntington Hospital to continue critical clinical programs and services for its patients.
The proposed affiliation was announced in March 2020.
Affiliations between hospitals have become more common in recent years in response to increased demand for coordinated healthcare and access to specialized services. They also enable cost savings due to shared resources. Without affiliation, standalone hospitals such as Huntington face significant obstacles to their long-term ability to serve the community.
The Attorney General approved Huntington’s affiliation with Cedars-Sinai in December 2020—but only if Huntington and Cedars-Sinai accept so-called “competitive impact” conditions. The lawsuit emphasizes that these unprecedented conditions would put Huntington and its patients at a distinct disadvantage compared to any other hospital in the region.
“We are shocked at the unprecedented over-reach of the conditions being imposed,” said Lori J. Morgan, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Huntington Hospital. “Rather than benefitting our community, the conditions primarily benefit health insurance companies,” Morgan said.
One of the conditions puts price caps on Huntington’s rates to insurance companies for at least 10 years, without any requirement that the insurance companies pass their savings on to consumers. Another condition forces Huntington and Cedars-Sinai to submit to insurance companies’ demands for “winner-take-all” arbitration in contract negotiations any time that an insurance company wants to do so. No other hospital in California is subject to such conditions.
“This unlevel playing field jeopardizes Huntington’s and Cedars-Sinai’s future ability to provide access to quality care for the many communities we serve—and those who rely on us for life-saving care when it’s needed most,” Morgan said.
Under California law, proposed affiliations of nonprofit hospitals are subject to approval by the California Attorney General’s office, which may impose conditions to protect the availability or accessibility of health care services in affected communities. Huntington and Cedars-Sinai worked cooperatively with the Attorney General to identify appropriate conditions to ensure the provision of continued, high-quality care to their respective patient communities. These include commitments to maintain operations and services, make major investments in capital improvements, maintain access to care for reproductive health services and ensure that there is no discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
However, the Attorney General added the unprecedented “competitive impact” conditions, despite the fact that the Federal Trade Commission’s analysis of the proposed affiliation did not find any concern that the affiliation would lessen competition. The Attorney General’s office has never imposed such conditions on any previous nonprofit hospital affiliation.
Thomas M. Priselac, Cedars-Sinai’s president and CEO, noted that the commonly used measure of market competition—relied on by the Federal Trade Commission and others—showed that the Huntington affiliation would not lessen competition, because there is almost no overlap between Huntington’s service area and Cedars-Sinai’s.
The Attorney General’s office relied on an unvalidated academic theory called “cross-market effects.” This theory assumes that, following an affiliation, Huntington and Cedars-Sinai might engage in “all-or-nothing” negotiations with health insurance companies, forcing an insurance company to accept the same terms for both Cedars-Sinai and Huntington.
But Cedars-Sinai and Huntington do not engage in “all-or-nothing” negotiations and they proposed to the Attorney General’s office that they would agree not to engage in such negotiations with insurance companies for at least 10 years. The Attorney General’s office rejected this proposal even though its own expert’s “cross-market effect” analysis confirmed that such a commitment would remove any concerns regarding competition.
The proposed affiliation is intended to strengthen and maintain Huntington’s 128-year legacy, and to preserve its unique culture as a community institution governed by a local board, with its own employees and medical staff. In addition, philanthropy and volunteer support will remain locally controlled, serving Huntington Hospital and its existing community.
Morgan and Priselac said they believe that today’s action will enable the affiliation to proceed in a manner that meets the region’s healthcare needs now and in the future.
About Huntington Hospital
Huntington Hospital, www.huntingtonhospital.org, is a 619-bed not-for-profit hospital in Pasadena, California. We are named among the top hospitals in California and nationally ranked in two specialties by U.S. News & World Report. Learn more about us on Facebook www.facebook.com/huntingtonmemorialhospital and on Twitter @huntingtonnews.
About Cedars-Sinai Health System
Cedars-Sinai Health System was established in 2017 to bring together a collaborative network of high-quality healthcare institutions to share resources and expertise. Expanding patient access to convenient and affordable clinical care is a fundamental goal of the health system. Currently, the Cedars-Sinai Health System comprises Cedars-Sinai (which includes the 890-bed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the 145-bed Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital), joint ventures with California Rehabilitation Institute and Cedars-Sinai Providence Tarzana Medical Center, as well as its network of physicians and ambulatory services at more than 40 locations throughout Southern California and Torrance Memorial (which includes the 470-bed Torrance Memorial Medical Center, its network of physicians and medical offices throughout the South Bay). The institutions in the health system serve nearly 2 million people each year.
Cedars-Sinai Health System
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