CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolinas HealthCare System, recently rebranded Atrium Health, is the target of a new class-action lawsuit alleging anti-competitive conduct and high payments for thousands of patients.
The suit comes on the heels of a similar civil antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2016. That case is ongoing.
Both complaints allege that CHS uses its market dominance to negotiate unlawful contracts that prevent insurance companies from offering lower-cost alternatives to patients.
The class-action lawsuit potentially involves tens of thousands of patients who have stayed overnight in a Carolinas HealthCare System hospital over the past four years and reads in part: "As a direct result of CHS's anti-competitive conduct, inpatient consumers are forced to pay above-competitive prices for co-insurance and other direct payments to CHS."
Atrium Health responded to the lawsuit by saying that it "neither violated any law nor deviated from accepted healthcare industry practices for contracting and negotiation. We believe this case is without merit and look forward to presenting our position in court."
Legal experts said it's possible this latest lawsuit never sees the inside of a courtroom and said settlements are common in cases like this one, especially with legal pressure also coming from the Justice Department.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by Charlotte-based Dozier Miller Law Group.
Attorney Adam Hocutt declined a full comment and told Channel 9 that "the lawsuit and its allegations speak for themselves."
Statement from Atrium Health:
"On Feb. 28, 2018, a plaintiff filed a civil action against Atrium Health claiming that certain provisions in contracts between Atrium Health and insurance companies were financially detrimental. This follow-on suit mirrors arguments previously presented in related litigation. Atrium Health has neither violated any law nor deviated from accepted healthcare industry practices for contracting and negotiation. We believe this case is without merit and look forward to presenting our position in court.
"Atrium Health has been recognized by healthcare and community groups, as well as by the government, for the quality care and cost reduction programs we have implemented. We are dedicated to our mission - to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing - for all, and our commitment to delivering high-quality services to anyone that comes through our doors will always be our main focus."
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