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ProMedica files motion to dismiss lawsuit brought by McLaren St. Luke's, citing abuse of antitrust laws

ProMedica's motion says that the lawsuit, if not dismissed, would 'allow McLaren St. Luke’s to take a free ride on ProMedica’s investments.'
Credit: WTOL
New signs have been installed at what is now McLaren St. Luke's hospital in Maumee.

TOLEDO, Ohio — ProMedica has filed a motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit brought by McLaren St. Luke's, which had been brought after ProMedica announced the termination of McLaren St. Luke's in-network status on the Paramount health plan beginning Jan. 1.

RELATED: ProMedica's Paramount health plan to terminate McLaren St. Luke's of in-network status

The antitrust lawsuit says ProMedica's decision was triggered by McLaren Health Care Corporation's recent acquisition of St. Luke's. It alleges ProMedica engaged in a pattern of "monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior designed to maintain and increase it's dominate market position by limiting patient choice and causing harm to St. Luke's and its affiliated physicians." 

RELATED: McLaren St. Luke’s files lawsuit against ProMedica for anticompetitive business practices

ProMedica's 20-page motion to dismiss the lawsuit alleges that it abuses antitrust laws and that ProMedica was within their rights to terminate the contracts with McLaren St. Luke's.

The motion argues that McLaren St. Luke's "requested relief would stifle, rather than promote, competition."

In the motion, ProMedica details an agreement facilitated by the Federal Trade Commission four years ago to assist St. Luke's, prior to McLaren Health Care Corporation's involvement. The agreement would protect competition in Lucas County with ProMedica supporting St. Luke's viability.

According to ProMedica, part of this agreement included the right to terminate the provided assistance if St. Luke's were to be acquired by a "deep-pocketed, out-of-state health system." The FTC reviewed and approved the contract. 

Now, ProMedica says, that health system has come along in the form of McLaren Health Care Corporation, which has turned St. Luke's into far more significant competition on its own. ProMedica says in the motion that, because of this, they exercised their contractual rights "to do exactly what St. Luke’s agreed to and what the FTC blessed" by ending "the temporary and extraordinary assistance it offered to a locally-owned hospital trying to get back on its feet, and repositioned itself to compete with a fundamentally new competitor, one that is armed with its own health plan, deep pockets, and a self-proclaimed track record of market success."

ProMedica says the FTC's involvement in the original contract with St. Luke's at the heart of the lawsuit grants immunity to any antitrust claims based upon the contract. According to ProMedica, the complaint, which they call "vague and conclusory", is an action that abuses antitrust laws.

The motion goes on to say that ultimately, terminating the in-network status would encourage McLaren St. Luke's to bring McLaren Health Care Corporation's own plan, MHP, into Lucas County to compete. Terminating the contracts to share specialists between the two hospitals also encourages further competition, which ProMedica says would be undone were the lawsuit to rule in McLaren St. Luke's favor.

The motion reads, "if the Court forces ProMedica to share its Paramount network with McLaren St. Luke’s, MHP will have less incentives to enter and expand in Lucas County, and if forced to share ProMedica’s cardiothoracic surgeons, the competing doctors McLaren has introduced to replace them will be sent home. Consumers benefit from refusals to deal because those refusals generally enhance competition."

According to ProMedica, the lawsuit would also "allow McLaren St. Luke’s to take a free ride on ProMedica’s investments."