NJ health system hit with antitrust lawsuit over property purchases

Law360 (September 9, 2022, 8:05 p.m. EDT) – A New Jersey healthcare system has faced an antitrust challenge that alleges a multi-pronged conspiracy to monopolize medical care in the region and drive its rival out of business , especially in Hudson County.

The 69-page complaintfiled Tuesday by CarePoint Health, accuses RWJBarnabas Health Inc. of violating federal and state antitrust laws through a years-long effort “in conspiracy with others, to destroy competition and monopolize the provision of general hospital care services Acute and Related Health Care Services in Northern New Jersey.”

In particular, the purported “network of interwoven schemes” sought to “destroy the three hospitals operated by CarePoint as independent competitors” in order to bankrupt CarePoint through “serial acquisitions of competing hospitals and healthcare providers , as well as the real estate necessary for the operation of competing hospitals.

CarePoint claims that RWJBarnabas worked with officials at Hudson Regional Hospital (HRH) to put them out of business.

Yan Moshe, President of HRH, and Dr. Nizar Kifaieh, President and CEO of HRH, are accused of conspiracy with RWJBarnabas. Avery Eisenreich, “a real estate actor”, is also the subject of the complaint, and is accused by CarePoint of real estate transactions “used to undermine CarePoint and create uncertainty among its employees”.

RWJBarnabas, according to the complaint, continued to spread false information and undermine confidence in the CarePoint system, “with no intention of actually acquiring CarePoint, but rather inflicting ‘death by a thousand cuts’ on it, until be eliminated as a contestant.

The complaint also accuses the hospital system of colluding with health insurer Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to open a satellite emergency medical services site in Bayonne, where CarePoint was the only available emergency site.

CarePoint argues that it lost revenue and resulting profits as a result of RWJBarnabas’ actions to address the “anti-competitive effects of the conduct of RWJ and its conspirators”.

RWJBarnabas’ Jersey City Medical Center and CarePoint’s Christ Hospital are two of the three largest hospitals in Hudson County and the only hospitals in Jersey City.

The lawsuit follows another launched in August, when CarePoint sued JCMC in state court, claiming it violated a settlement agreement by directing privately insured ambulance patients to its own doors while sending underinsured and uninsured patients at CarePoint hospitals. The complaint also alleged violations of New Jersey antitrust law.

Tuesday’s complaint repeated some of those allegations, which accuse JCMC of closing the majority of its charity care clinics in Hudson County to transfer uninsured or underinsured patients to CarePoint “while using its ambulance to move more lucrative insured patients to RWJ hospitals”.

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for RWJBarnabas called the lawsuit “a series of baseless complaints”, accusing CarePoint management of choosing “to blame others rather than accept responsibility for the results. dissatisfied with their own poor business decisions and actions over the years.

“RWJBarnabas Health has a long-standing commitment to serving the residents of Hudson County and is proud of the significant investments we have made in technology, facilities and clinical teams as we move forward in our mission,” said said the spokesperson.

CarePoint is asking the court for treble damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees, and an injunction restraining RWJBarnabas and his conspirators from continuing “their unlawful conduct.” The group is also seeking damages under Section 4 of the Clayton Act.

SAR did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

CarePoint is represented by Patrick M. Harrington, Lawrence G. McMichael and James J. Rodgers of Dilworth Paxson LLP.

Information about RWJBarnabas’ lawyer was not included in the complaint.

The case is Care Point Health Management Associates LLC et al. vs. RWJ Barnabas Health Inc, Case Number 2:22-cv-05421, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

–Edited by Rich Mills.

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