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What a St. Francis Hospital Lawsuit Says about Healthcare in Connecticut

On the 11th of January, 2022, St. Francis Hospital took a rare step.

They sued Hartford Healthcare (HHC) and its various subsidiaries.

The reason?

They’re charging HHC of conducting “a campaign of exclusion, acquisition, and intimidation” while claiming Hartford Healthcare executives have made it a priority to “crush” and “bury” St Francis Hospital.

The suit also claims that as HHC has acquired physician practices, they have threatened and intimidated physicians who don’t comply with their “dictates.”

Specifically, the suit claims that “Hartford HealthCare has told some physicians that if they did not agree to join its practice, that Hartford HealthCare would ‘crush’ them.”

The suit also alleges that HHC provides “health care that is higher cost and lesser quality” than their competitors:

Hartford Hospital’s rates are more than 15% higher than any of Saint Francis, UConn Dempsey, Manchester Memorial, or Bristol Hospital, all of the other hospitals in the area that are not part of Hartford HealthCare. Saint Francis is graded higher on most quality measures by the federal government. Nevertheless, Hartford HealthCare’s anticompetitive practices have allowed it to increase its dominant position in the market and impose higher prices on care that is of lesser quality to area patients. Because of its market dominance and anticompetitive conduct, Hartford HealthCare has not faced any competitive pressure to improve its prices or quality.[1]

St. Francis further asserts that HHC is buying lucrative medical practices focused on cardiac and orthopedic surgeries and forcing those doctors to send their patients to HHC hospitals exclusively. St. Francis also claims that HHC has sought to obtain the exclusive rights to the robotic surgery robot Mako, used in many orthopedic surgeries.

So, why do these claims of anticompetitive behavior matter?

We believe that all patients are entitled to quality health care.

We believe all patients have a right to unbiased second opinions – opinions based on the facts of a case and not tied to the financial interests of a powerful medical holding company.

We also strongly believe that power concentrated in the hands of a few is dangerous. It invariably leads to poorer quality goods and services at higher prices. And in health care, nothing could be worse.

The goal of all hospitals should be to provide the best quality patient care possible for all medical conditions and patients and should not be about gaining competitive advantages that put profits ahead of quality care.

It is our hope that the courts will consider this matter with great care and take whatever steps are necessary to protect the rights of Connecticut’s citizens to quality health care.

 

[1] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21177217-stfrancislawsuit