St. Luke's files appeal of Saltzer decision

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - St. Luke's Health System filed an appeal Thursday to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to reverse a judge's order to undo the hospital's purchase of Saltzer Medical Group earlier this year.

The hospital says that they believe the judge was wrong about the purchase causing substantial anti-competitive effects and that it violated anti-trust laws.

"Appealing the decision is not something we take lightly," said St. Luke's Health System President and CEO Dr. David C. Pate in a press release. "We continue to believe the affiliation will provide a better health care delivery model with improved access to care at a lower cost for people in Canyon County and its surrounding areas."

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill made the ruling in January, ordering St. Luke's Health System to undo its buyout of the Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group.

The ruling came in a lawsuit between St. Luke's, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC and Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center contended the buyout was an illegal market grab and gives St. Luke's an unfair advantage. But St. Luke's countered the acquisition will allow it to improve patient care and launch new medical plans designed to help low-income and uninsured patients.

Winmill said that it's likely the buyout would raise health care costs because it would give St. Luke's a dominant market position.

"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," Winmill wrote. "But there are other ways to achieve the same effect that do not run afoul of the antitrust laws and do not run such a risk of increased costs. For all of these reasons, the acquisition must be unwound."