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IU Health, Monroe Hospital settle ambulance lawsuit

November 27, 2017

Two Bloomington hospitals that have been quarreling for nearly two years over ambulance service have decided to settle the matter quietly.

The agreement ends a bitter struggle between Monroe Hospital, a money-losing, 11-year-old hospital with 32 beds, and its larger rival, Indiana University Bloomington Hospital, with 273 beds and about 10 times the patient revenue.

Monroe Hospital had claimed that IU Health violated antitrust laws in how it ran its ambulance service, which is the sole provider of all emergency medical transportation services in Monroe County. Under the arrangement, IU Health’s ambulances respond to all 911 calls in Monroe County.

Monroe Hospital officials had complained that IU Health ambulances had delivered most of the patients—about 95 percent—to their own hospital, even when the smaller hospital was closer or patients requested to go there. Monroe Hospital sued IU Health in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis in January of 2016.

But lawyers for the two hospitals told a federal magistrate during a telephone status conference on Nov. 15 they had had reached a settlement.

The magistrate, Mark J. Dinsmore, closed the matter in an order the following day. However, it could be weeks or months before the terms of the settlement come to light, if ever.

Neither hospital would comment to IBJ, and the magistrate’s order gives the parties “an extended period in which to file their stipulation of dismissal in this matter.”

So it’s unclear whether the two hospitals agreed to any material change in the current practice of transporting most 911-response patients to IU Health Bloomington Hospital. The two hospitals are four miles apart.

The settlement comes just weeks after Monroe Hospital filed an amendment complaint, alleging that Monroe County did not adequately regulate the ambulance service.

In a Nov. 23 response to the amended complaint, IU Health argued it was immune from federal antitrust liability under a legal provision known as the state action doctrine.

“Subjecting IU Health Bloomington to federal antitrust liability would thwart Indiana’s role of regulating and supervising emergency medical services for the welfare of Hoosiers,” IU Health said in its filing.

IU Health entered the market in 2008 when it bought Bloomington Hospital, established in 1905. The hospital last year had earnings of nearly $80 million on patient revenue of $1.3 billion.

Monroe Hospital was established as an independent hospital in 2006. It was bought in 2014 by Los Angeles-based Prime Healthcare Services, which owns about 40 other hospitals in 11 states. Last year, Monroe Hospital lost $1.6 million on patient revenue of $132.7 million.

 

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