Prime sues Kaiser, SEIU against alleged monopoly scheme

In the latest twist of legal action, California hospital operator Prime Healthcare on Tuesday filed suit, alleging that Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) violated anti-trust laws through a monopoly conspiracy.

Prime, which owns and operates 12 acute care hospitals, accuses the rival provider and the labor union group of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. In an effort to push Prime out of the market, the lawsuit alleges Kaiser and SEIU engaged in a labor-management partnership that limits consumers' healthcare choices in California, according to a Prime statement. Prime claims SEIU offered Kaiser wage concessions to reduce Prime's market, according to a Contra Costa Times article.

"Prime Healthcare's business model, which provides cost-effective and high-quality health care in underserved communities, threatens SEIU and its partner Kaiser Permanente," Michael Sarrao, vice president and general counsel for Prime Healthcare Services, said in a press release. "SEIU is not concerned about those patients who rely on Prime Healthcare's hospitals for much needed healthcare, but instead is focused on driving out hospital operators like Prime Healthcare that pose a threat to SEIU's and Kaiser's anti-competitive partnership."

Kaiser called the lawsuit "deeply puzzling," in a statement. Kaiser, who previously sued Prime, claimed the hospital chain's facilities "trap patients" and "submit false and inflated bills," reports California Healthline. Kaiser further pointed to accusations that Prime Healthcare has had abnormally high blood infections and malnutrition (kwashiorkor) rates, allegedly leading to upcoding and fraudulent billing, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Sarrao said a state Department of Public Health investigation cleared Prime of misdiagnosing blood infection cases.

Prime Healthcare said in its statement that SEIU has been falsifying "studies" and releasing them to media outlets in a smear campaign. In particular, Prime Healthcare has had notable tensions with news organization California Watch over reports that Prime engaged in billing fraud.

For more information:
- read the Prime Healthcare press release
- read the Contra Costa Times article
- read the California Healthline article

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