UPDATED: BRF files antitrust lawsuit against Willis-Knighton Health System

Biomedical Research Foundation, the current manager of University Health in Shreveport, has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Willis-Knighton Health System, alleging the private health-care company has been unfairly taking away doctors and their privately insured patients.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Shreveport, asks a judge to prevent Willis-Knighton from those alleged practices.

Read the lawsuit here.

“This case is being filed to enjoin Willis-Knighton Medical Center from unlawfully stripping (University Health) of its commercially insured business, and then taking over UH-Shreveport,” the lawsuit said. “The actions of Willis-Knighton … would give it a virtually complete monopoly position in the (Shreveport-Bossier) market. They would substantially increase health care costs, reduce health care quality, and seriously harm insurers, employers and consumers…”

Willis-Knighton operates three hospitals in Shreveport and one in Bossier City. CHRISTUS has one hospital in Shreveport.

The lawsuit accused Willis-Knighton of using similar practices in the past against three private hospitals: Bossier Medical Center, Doctors Hospital and CHRISTUS Schumpert. All of those hospitals closed.

After first issuing a statement Thursday morning saying it would not respond to University Health’s anti-trust allegations, Willis-Knighton late today released a second statement calling statements in the lawsuit “a false portrayal of medical services provided to and for some of the most vulnerable citizens in north Louisiana.” Officials are prepared to defend their actions in federal court.

Last month BRF leadership announced the hiring of national antitrust attorney David Ettinger, who spoke at the LSU Board of Supervisor’s meeting in June. At that meeting, Ettinger discussed multiple LSU doctors moving their practices to Willis-Knighton, a move that would take away insured patients from the safety-net hospital.

Ettinger said that raises monopoly concerns, would increase prices for private patients and would cost the state of Louisiana an additional $45 million in overhead costs at University Health.

Ettinger cited Willis-Knighton CEO James Elrod’s book “Breadcrumbs to Cheesecake” as what he claims to be evidence of unfair business practices by the health system.

“He even said in his book that Willis-Knighton’s control of primary care physicians means that its specialists have ‘monopolies’, his word,” said Ettinger.

As a party to the legal action, Vantage Health Plan alleges Willis-Knighton has refused to reasonably contract with the company, harming its ability to offer innovative, cost-reducing products in the Shreveport area. Willis-Knighton’s past acquisitions have enabled it to effectively limit Vantage’s competition and the improvement of health care locally, the lawsuit states.

“Vantage has joined in UH-Shreveport’s lawsuit because we believe that it is critical to the community that this hospital remains a vibrant independent facility rather than have it become like the other hospitals which our lawsuit alleges have been driven out of business by Willis-Knighton’s actions,” said Dr. Gary Jones, Vantage CEO.

The antitrust lawsuit comes shortly after Louisiana State University officials called for the immediate resignation of Dr. John George, CEO and president of the BRF board. LSU, which operates the medical school at the University Health complex, wants BRF out of the operation of the hospital, alleging deficiencies in its management of University Health.

In its lawsuit, BRF alleged Willis-Knighton pressured LSU “into unjustifiably seeking to terminate UH-Shreveport’s operation of its hospital so that Willis-Knighton can take it over.”

In Willis-Knighton’s first statement, spokeswoman Marilyn Joiner listed the hospital’s 30-year record of support and advocacy for LSU Health Sciences Center, including over $100 million in financial contributions for the medical school. Willis-Knighton’s first concern is the medical school’s financial viability and its future, Joiner said.

In the second statement, Joiner said for many years, beginning long before BRF’s management contract, WK had agreements with LSU and area physicians, at their request, to assist in providing healthcare services through community clinics across our community
“The agreements have provided vital healthcare resources and, as BRF should know, the clinics are not taking patients from BRF, or advancing WK’s market position. The agreements were and are for one purpose only – providing quality healthcare to needy patients and families that are seeking services currently at WK. The clinics also provide quality educational opportunities for LSU Medical School residents and fellows,” she said.

“It is unfortunate that, rather than addressing the serious allegations of failure of contract levied against it this past week by Louisiana State University, BRF has instead chosen to file suit against Willis-Knighton, and in so doing is claiming that LSU, many dedicated area physicians, nurses and staff have all conspired against BRF,” Joiner said.
Steve Skrivanos, UH-Shreveport’s board chairman, said at the afternoon news conference UH is a critical safety-net hospital for the poor and disadvantaged in the community and since it took over the hospital it has been able to open up new services, cut waiting times by 90 percent and make the hospital more attractive and effective for patients.

“We contend in our lawsuit that Willis-Knighton’s actions endanger all that. In fact, our lawsuit explains that using Willis-Knighton facilities is in many cases costs two and three times as much as the cost of obtaining health care in UH-Shreveport,” Skrivanos said.

 

[“source – ktbs.com”]