9310028
B236148

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BEFORE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

Commissioners:
Robert Pitofsky, Chairman
Mary L. Azcuenaga
Sheila F. Anthony
Mozelle W. Thompson
Orson Swindle

In the Matter of

UROLOGICAL STONE SURGEONS, INC., STONE CENTERS OF AMERICA, L.L.C., and UROLOGICAL SERVICES, LTD., corporations, and DONALD M. NORRIS, M.D., and MARC A. RUBENSTEIN, M.D., individually and as officers, directors, and shareholders of Urological Stone Surgeons, Inc., as owners and officers of  Urological Services, Ltd., and as shareholders of Stone Centers of America, L.L.C.

DOCKET NO. C-3791

DECISION AND ORDER

The Federal Trade Commission having initiated an investigation of certain acts and practices of the respondents named in the caption hereof, and the respondent having been furnished thereafter with a copy of a draft of complaint which the Chicago Regional Office proposed to present to the Commission for its consideration and which, if issued by the Commission, would charge respondents with violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act; and

The respondents, their attorneys, and counsel for the Commission having thereafter executed an agreement containing a consent order, an admission by the respondents of all the jurisdictional facts set forth in the aforesaid draft of complaint, a statement that the signing of said agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by respondents that the law has been violated as alleged in such complaint, and waivers and other provisions as required by the Commission's Rules; and

The Commission having thereafter considered the matter and having determined that it had reason to believe that the respondents have violated the said Act, and that complaint should issue stating its charges in that respect, and having thereupon accepted the executed consent agreement and placed such agreement on the public record for a period of sixty (60) days, and no comments having been filed thereafter by interested parties pursuant to 2.34 of its Rules, the Commission hereby issues its complaint, makes the following jurisdictional findings and enters the following order:

  1. Respondent USS is a corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Delaware, with its principal office and place of business at 1875 West Dempster Street, Park Ridge, Illinois 60068.
  2. Respondent SCA is a corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Illinois, with its principal office and place of business at 1875 West Dempster Street, Park Ridge, Illinois 60068.
  3. Respondent USL is a corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Illinois, with its principal office and place of business at 1875 West Dempster Street, Park Ridge, Illinois 60068.
  4. Respondents Donald M. Norris, M.D., and Marc A. Rubenstein, M.D., are officers, directors, and shareholders of respondent USS, co-owners and officers of respondent USL, and shareholders of respondent SCA. Respondents Donald M. Norris, M.D., and Marc A. Rubenstein, M.D., are urologists engaged in the business of providing medical services to patients for a fee. Their principal office and place of business is 1875 West Dempster Street, Suite 365, Park Ridge, Illinois 60068.
  5. The acts and practices of the respondents alleged in this complaint have been in or affecting commerce, as “commerce” is defined in the Federal Trade Commission Act.
  6. The Federal Trade Commission has jurisdiction of the subject matter in this proceeding and of the respondents, and the proceeding is in the public interest.

ORDER

I.

IT IS ORDERED that, for purposes of this order, the following definitions shall apply:

A. "Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy" or "lithotripsy" means the treatment of kidney stones without surgery by projecting, against the patient’s body, high-energy shock waves that pulverize the kidney stones into particles which are then eliminated through the urinary tract. "Lithotripter" means a machine used to generate such shock waves.

B. "Urologist" means a physician licensed to practice medicine who entirely or substantially limits his or her practice to the specialized practice of urology, which includes the diagnosis and treatment of diseases or medical conditions of or affecting the urogenital system.

C. "Lithotripsy professional services" means any urologist professional services associated with the provision of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.

D. "Lithotripsy machine services" means the provision of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, including, but not limited to, the supplying of the lithotripter, operation of the lithotripter, and providing accompanying services to the patients, but excluding lithotripsy professional services and anesthesia services associated with extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.

E. "USS" means Urological Stone Surgeons, Inc., its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, groups and affiliates controlled by USS, their successors and assigns, and their directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives.

F. "USL" means Urological Services, Ltd., its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, groups and affiliates controlled by USL, their successors and assigns, and their directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives.

G. "SCA" means Stone Centers of America, L.L.C., its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, groups and affiliates controlled by SCA, their successors and assigns, and their directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives.

H. "Respondent urologists" means Donald M. Norris, M.D., and Marc A. Rubenstein, M.D.

I. "Person" means any natural person, corporate entity, partnership, association, joint venture, government entity, trust, or other entity.

J. "Third-party payer" means any person that purchases, reimburses for, or otherwise pays for all or part of any health care services for itself or for any other person. Third-party payer includes, but is not limited to, any health insurance company; preferred provider organization; prepaid hospital, medical, or other health service plan; health maintenance organization; government health benefits program; and employer or other person providing or administering self-insured health benefits programs.

K. "Global fee or bill for lithotripsy" means a method of billing or charging for lithotripsy whereby the charges for its component services, including lithotripsy machine services, lithotripsy professional services, and anesthesia services, are billed and/or paid as a single, combined charge, whether or not the component services are separately itemized in the bill.

L. "Integrated joint venture" means a joint venture where the participants either: (a) share substantial financial risk that provides incentives for the participants to cooperate in controlling costs and improving quality by managing the provision of services by network participants; (b) implement an active and ongoing program to evaluate and modify practice patterns by the network’s participants and create a high degree of interdependence and cooperation among the participants to control costs and ensure quality, so that the joint venture involves sufficient integration with the potential to achieve significant efficiencies; or (c) otherwise sufficiently integrate so that the joint venture has the potential to achieve significant efficiencies.

II.

A. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that each respondent, directly or indirectly, or through any corporate or other device, in or affecting commerce, as "commerce" is defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 44, forthwith cease and desist from agreeing or combining, attempting to agree or combine, or taking any action in furtherance of any agreement or combination with any other respondent or any other urologist: (1) to fix, establish, stabilize, set, tamper with, or negotiate the prices, discounts, or any other aspect or term relating to prices charged or billed to, or to be charged or billed to, or paid or reimbursed by, or to be paid or reimbursed by, any patient, purchaser, or third-party payer for lithotripsy professional services (including prices established through the use of any global fee or bill for lithotripsy); and (2) concerning any other term of sale or contract for lithotripsy professional services to or with any patient, purchaser, or third-party payer.

B. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondents USS, SCA, and USL shall terminate any agreement or contract with any third-party payer for the provision of lithotripsy professional services that does not comply with Paragraph II.A. of this order at the earlier of:

(1) the termination or renewal date (including any automatic renewal date) of such agreement or contract; or (2) receipt of a written request from a third-party payer to terminate such agreement or contract.

PROVIDED THAT nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit any respondent from performing pursuant to any existing agreement or contract with any third-party payer for the provision of lithotripsy professional services until the earlier of: (1) the termination or renewal date (including any automatic renewal date) of such agreement or contract; or (2) receipt of a written request from a third- party payer to terminate such agreement or contract.

PROVIDED FURTHER THAT nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit either respondent urologist from entering into an agreement or combination with any other physician with whom the respondent urologist practices in partnership or in a professional corporation, or who is employed by the same person as the respondent urologist, to deal with any patient, purchaser, or third- party payer on collectively determined terms.

PROVIDED FURTHER THAT nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit respondents USS, SCA, USL or respondent urologists from forming, facilitating the formation of, or participating in an integrated joint venture and dealing through such integrated joint venture with any patient, purchaser, or third-party payer on collectively determined terms regarding the provision of, or contracts or arrangements for the provision of, lithotripsy professional services, or of urology services including lithotripsy professional services.

III.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondents USS, SCA, and USL shall:

A. Within thirty (30) days from the date this order becomes final, distribute a copy of the complaint and order in this matter to each of their current shareholders, officers, and directors, and to each other agent, representative, or employee of USS, SCA, or USL whose activities are affected by this order, or who have responsibilities with respect to the subject matter of this order;

B. For a period of four (4) years from the date this order becomes final, and within thirty (30) days of the date the person assumes such position, distribute a copy of the complaint and order in this matter to each new shareholder, officer, and director of USS, SCA, or USL, and to each other agent, representative, or employee of USS, SCA, or USL whose activities are affected by this order, or who have responsibilities with respect to the subject matter of this order;

C. For a period of four (4) years from the date this order becomes final, distribute a copy of the complaint and order in this matter to each urologist who provides lithotripsy professional services in connection with USS, SCA, or USL within thirty (30) days from the date such urologist commences providing lithotripsy professional services in connection with USS, SCA, or USL; and

D. Within thirty (30) days from the date this order becomes final, distribute a copy of the complaint and order in this matter, together with the NOTICE in the Attachment to this order, to each third-party payer with whom respondent USS, SCA, or USL has an agreement or contract for the provision of lithotripsy professional services that does not comply with Paragraph II.A. of this order.

IV.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that each respondent shall file a verified written report with the Commission within sixty (60) days after the date this order becomes final, annually thereafter for four (4) years on the anniversary of the date the order becomes final, and at such other times as the Commission may by written notice require, setting forth in detail the manner and form in which the respondent has complied and is complying with Paragraphs II and III of this order.

V.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:

A. Respondents USS, SCA, and USL shall notify the Commission at least thirty (30) days prior to any proposed change in any corporate respondent, such as dissolution, assignment, sale resulting in the emergence of a successor corporation, or the creation or dissolution of subsidiaries or any other change in the corporation that may affect compliance obligations arising under this order; and

B. For ten years after the date this order becomes final, respondents USS, SCA, USL, and respondent urologists shall notify the Commission in writing at least forty-five (45) days prior to forming or participating in an integrated joint venture and dealing through such integrated joint venture with any patient, purchaser or third-party payer on collectively determined terms regarding the provision of, or contracts or arrangements for the provision of, lithotripsy professional services or of urology services including lithotripsy professional services.

VI.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that each respondent shall, for the purpose of determining or securing compliance with this order, and subject to any legally recognized privilege, permit duly authorized Commission representatives:

A. Access during respondent's office hours, in the presence of counsel, to inspect and copy all books, ledgers, accounts, correspondence, memoranda, reports, and other records and documents in respondent's possession or control that relate to any matter contained in this order; and

B. An opportunity, subject to respondent's reasonable convenience, to interview respondent, and officers, directors, employees, agents, or other representatives of respondent, who may have counsel present, regarding such matters.

VII.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this order shall terminate on April 6, 2018.

By the Commission, Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Swindle not participating. Commissioner Azcuenaga concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Benjamin I. Berman
Acting Secretary

SEAL

ISSUED: April 6, 1998

Attachment to Order

NOTICE

Urological Stone Surgeons, Inc. ("USS"), Stone Centers of America, L.L.C. ("SCA"), and Urological Services, Ltd. ("USL"), doing business as Parkside Kidney Stone Center ("Parkside"), are prohibited by an order issued by the Federal Trade Commission from entering into any arrangement, including any agreement or contract with purchasers or third-party payers of lithotripsy services, whereby competing urologists agree among themselves concerning any aspect of the prices, discounts, or other terms of sale or reimbursement of their professional services related to the provision of lithotripsy.

Purchasers and third-party payers who have entered into such contracts with Parkside have not engaged in any improper or unlawful conduct by signing such contracts, and are not covered by the order issued by the Federal Trade Commission. However, this order may affect such contracts with Parkside. If you currently have an agreement or contract with Parkside for the provision of lithotripsy services that includes any provisions establishing uniform prices, discounts, or other terms of sale or reimbursement for the professional services of urologists related to the provision of lithotripsy, the order permits you, at your discretion, to immediately terminate the agreement or contract by notifying the contracting party (USS, SCA, or USL) in writing. If you choose not to terminate the agreement or contract by this procedure, Parkside is required by the order to terminate the agreement or contract upon its stated termination or renewal date (including any date set therein for automatic renewal). However, the order does not prohibit Parkside from negotiating new agreements or contracts with you, so long as they do not involve the joint setting of any aspect of the prices, discounts, or other terms of sale or reimbursement of urologists’ professional services related to the provision of lithotripsy.

Thus, the order does not prohibit Parkside from negotiating or entering into new contracts with you for the provision of lithotripsy machine services and anesthesia services related to lithotripsy, where you independently arrange with urologists for provision of their professional services for lithotripsy. In addition, Parkside is not prohibited from conveying information, offers, and responses between purchasers or payers and individual urologists providing their professional services related to the provision of lithotripsy, so long as these activities do not involve any explicit or implicit agreements among urologists regarding the prices, discounts, or other terms of sale or reimbursement of their professional services. This may be done, for example, by using a "messenger model" arrangement as discussed in the August 1996 Statements of Antitrust Enforcement Policy in Health Care jointly issued by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.