St. Luke's heads to trial over antitrust lawsuit

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- A trial that includes two of the largest health care providers in the state is starting.

The lawsuit includes the Federal Trade Commission, the State of Idaho Attorney General's Office, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center, and the Treasure Valley Hospital as plaintiffs against the defendant, St. Luke's Health System.

The main focus of the case revolves around St. Luke's buying Saltzer Medical Group Practice in Nampa.

According to the plaintiffs, by joining forces with Saltzer, St Luke's now controls 80 percent of adult primary care physicians in Nampa.

St. Luke's dismisses that argument and says Nampa is too small to affect overall competition for health care in the Treasure Valley.

St. Luke's says this combination of services was a part of a larger plan to improve the quality of health care and lower the costs for patients by integrating care.

The hospital claims it will help patients because it will reduce the number of medical tests and confusion between doctors because medical records will be shared.

The plaintiffs argue that competition is what drives groups to lower costs, create better services and increase innovation and say there isn't much of that left in Nampa now that St. Luke's owns Saltzer.

They also contend that St. Luke's growth has caused health care costs to spike in the past few years.

Both sides claim a win will be beneficial to the community and patients by lowering costs and improving the quality of health care.

The plaintiffs will present their case during the first two weeks of trial and St. Luke's will present their side the following two weeks.

Trial should last one month and a verdict is expected to be reached in late November or early December.