Part III Administrative Complaint
On February 10, 2004 the Commission issued an administrative complaint alleging that following Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corporation's acquisition of Highland Park Hospital prices charged to health insurers for medical services increased and, therefore, higher costs for health insurance were passed on to consumers of hospital services in the Cook and Lake counties of Illinois. The complaint also alleged that a physicians group affiliated with both hospitals, Highland Park Independent Physician Group, negotiated prices for physicians on staff at Evanston as well as for several hundred independent physicians not affiliated with either hospital. According to the complaint, these actions constitute illegal price fixing among competing physicians or physician groups and deny consumers the benefits of competition in physician services. In an initial Decision, the Administrative law judge found that the acquisition resulted in higher prices and substantially lessened competition for acute care inpatient services in parts of Chicago’s northwestern suburbs. The ALJ entered an order that would require the divestiture of the acquired hospital. On appeal, the Commission ruled that the acquisition was anticompetitive, but concluded that in this “highly unusual case,” divestiture, the remedy imposed by the administrative law judge, would be too costly and potentially risky and instead imposed a conduct remedy. The Commission’s order requires Evanston to set up two separate and independent contract negotiation teams to bargain with managed care organizations to revive competition between Evanston’s two hospitals and the Highland Park hospital.