SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California’s attorney general is suing Sutter Health, saying its anti-competitive business practices are pushing up health care costs.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the lawsuit on Friday, saying what Sutter has done isn’t just illegal, but has cost individuals thousands of dollars more, adding up to millions of dollars statewide.
Becerra says his office will be making the case that there’s been an abuse of the laws and Sutter health has been gaming the system.
“It’s time to hold healthcare corporations accountable and bring down illegally inflated health care costs imposed on California consumers.”
The six-year investigation has found healthcare giant Sutter Health inflated healthcare costs. He accuses Sutter Health of engaging in business practices that violate a California anti-trust law known as the Cartwright Act.
“We found that Sutter prevented insurance companies from negotiating with it under all or nothing conditions, causing disruption and higher prices for patients,” he said.
Sutter Health is based in Sacramento with 24 hospitals and 8,000 doctors.
Becerra says his investigation showed the average inpatient hospital procedure in Northern California costs patients $223,000, while the same procedures cost $131,000 in Southern California.
“That’s more than a $90,000 difference depending on where you live for basically the same bundle of hospital inpatient procedures,” he said.
The price difference along with other practices the lawsuit alleges by Sutter translates into real consequences for Northern California families.
“We found that Sutter restricted insurance companies from giving consumers more low-cost health plan options that they could choose from, and we found that Sutter set excessively high out-of-network prices and impeded transparency by restricting publication of provider cost information and rates,” Becerra said.
A statement from Sutter Health said, “It’s important to note that publicly available data show that on average, total charges for an inpatient stay in Sutter Hospital are lower than what other Northern California hospitals charge.”