Settlement paves the way for Utica hospitals to merge

By WKTV News

(WKTV) - A settlement between Faxton-St. Luke's Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center was announced by The Attorney General's Office on Wednesday.

The settlement would allow the two hospitals to combine their operations to reduce costs and enhance medical care in the Utica area. The settlement also stipulates the hospitals use their combination to benefit hospitals, not to impost higher health care costs. Continued patient access to key reproductive health services is also ensured under the settlement.

"This settlement allows Utica's two biggest hospitals to combine to survive in a challenging economic environment, while ensuring that the hospitals will fulfill their promise to use the partnership to improve patients' access to quality health care and not to increase prices," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

The settlement will allow a merger to proceed but also includes several provisions to prevent a monopoly. Among those provisions:

* The hospitals agree not to require independent physicians to work exclusively at the hospitals, or to require health plans to reimburse competing hospitals or health care providers at the same or lower rates than the health plans reimburse the hospitals.

* The hospitals commit to negotiate in good faith with rate payers, including commercial insurers and governmental managed care insurers. If these payors believe the hospitals are acting unfairly, the settlement gives the payors the right to continue their currently existing relationships with the hospitals for five years at current prices, subjected to annual increases not to exceed historic levels.

* The settlement allows the attorney general to ensure that the hospitals have implemented their promised efficiencies before termination of the rate-projection provisions.

Because St. Elizabeth's is a Catholic hospital, the settlement also takes steps to ensure Faxton-St. Luke's is able to continue its current level of reproductive health services and ensures that admitting privileges will continue to be available at Faxton-St. Luke's for physicians and medical professionals who provide reproductive health services outside of the hospital.


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