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Surgeon Sues Indiana University Health, Alleging Monopolization

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Indiana University Health, Inc., Indiana University Health Bloomington, Inc., and IU Health Bloomington Hospital, (IU Health) are being sued along with IU Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Daniel Handel, over allegations of monopolization, anticompetitive conduct and merging, breach of contract, and defamation. The claims come from an independent vascular surgeon practicing in southern Indiana, Dr. Ricardo Vasquez, who is demanding a trial by jury.

Vasquez maintained that in 2017, IU Health began an aggressive initiative to build “a monopoly in primary care services through a series of anticompetitive acquisitions,” and use said monopoly “to secure and enhance monopolies over specialist services.” IU Health controls 92.5% of inpatient discharges in the Bloomington area, according to the complaint. They also control 97% of primary care physicians, which allows them to largely determine where surgeries will be performed and which surgeries will be available to area patients, healthcare providers, and payors.

The plaintiff contended that the monopoly action taken by IU Health has resulted in increased healthcare costs and decreased quality of care, and in some instances an inability to receive care altogether. Because of the monopoly, IU Health has nearly exclusive access to deciding if and when patients have access to primary care services, which compromises patient care.

Dr. Vasquez is the only independent vascular surgeon left in Southern Indiana, he said, which he claims has caused him to be a target of IU Health’s monopolization. IU Health has supposedly revoked many of Dr. Vasquez’s privileges due to the perceived threat he poses to their monopoly over healthcare. Because of this, patients who see Dr. Vasquez are often forced to pay out of pocket to see him at an increased cost. Dr. Vasquez claimed to be well-known as the best vascular surgeon in the area, as he is able to do surgeries that other surgeons cannot.

Dr. Vasquez also argued that IU Health’s CMO, Dr. Handel, engaged in defamation by putting out “maliciously publicized false statements,” about Dr. Vasquez in an effort to harm both his practice and reputation. He further argued that IU Health’s employed vascular surgeons have, on multiple occasions, missed and even sent home patients with “life-threatening, severe aneurysms and other life-threatening vascular conditions.” Some of the patients have died.

The monopoly action by IU Health and its accompanying repercussions “have no procompetitive justification, and are done solely to exclude Dr. Vasquez for economic reasons.” The complaint filed by Vasquez contains counts of monopolization, anticompetitive merging, breach of contract, and defamation. Dr. Vasquez is requesting for judgement against the defendants, equitable relief, compensatory damages, and a trial by jury.The plaintiff is being represented by McDermott Will & Emery.

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