RHODE ISLAND FEDERAL COURT DENIES BCBSRI'S MOTION FOR AN INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL, ALLOWING HOSPITAL SYSTEM'S ANTITRUST CLAIMS TO GO TO TRIAL

            On May 15, 2018, Chief Judge William Smith of the Federal District Court for Rhode Island denied Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s motion for an interlocutory appeal of the Court’s previous denial of summary judgment, allowing a hospital system’s antitrust case against BCBSRI to proceed to trial. Quoting directly from the federal statute governing interlocutory appeals, the Court stated that its previous summary judgment order did not “’involve[] a controlling question of law as to which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion’ and that an immediate appeal would not ‘materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.’” The Court also quoted from a case from another federal court that stated: “Interlocutory appeal was not intended as a vehicle to provide early review of difficult rulings in hard cases.”  

            This antitrust case was brought by Steward Health Care System against BCBSRI alleging that BCBSRI unlawfully blocked Steward from entering the Rhode Island healthcare and health insurance markets by thwarting its $40 million acquisition of Landmark Medical Center. Steward’s complaint alleged that BCBSRI had illegally refused to deal on reasonable reimbursement rates in order to stop Steward from entering the Rhode Island market and that BCBSRI conspired with two other Rhode Island hospitals to steer patients away from Landmark to those hospitals.

            The Court’s previous summary judgment opinion had found that “Steward sets forth an abundance of evidence that points toward a ‘distinctly anticompetitive bent,’ which could in turn persuade a reasonable jury that Blue Cross unlawfully monopolized the relevant markets by excluding Steward from Rhode Island.” With the Court’s denial of the motion for an interlocutory appeal, a jury could have the opportunity to hear this “distinctly anticompetitive” evidence.

            The case is Steward Health Care System, LLC et al. v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, case number 1:13-cv-0045. The opinion on summary judgment and the text order denying the motion for an interlocutory appeal are available here.