The Federal Trade Commission sued U.S. Anesthesia Partners, one of the nation's largest anesthesia providers, and its private equity owner Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe for allegedly consolidating its practices in Texas to drive up prices for patients.
Private equity firms have been rolling up physician practices across the country, systematically picking off different specialties. The trend has drawn concern from regulators and healthcare economists, who have warned that some private equity firms prioritize profits over patient care.
FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a news release that Welsh Carson created the company to “rake in tens of millions of extra dollars for these executives at the expense of Texas patients and businesses,” and that the commission will continue to scrutinize “serial acquisitions and roll-ups.”
U.S. Anesthesia Partners, which on its website says it has 4,500 clinical team members that work in 700 inpatient and outpatient facilities in eight states and Washington, D.C., denied the allegations. Dr. Derek Schoppa, a practicing physician and board member at U.S. Anesthesia Partners, said in a statement the complaint is “based on flawed legal theories and a lack of medical understanding.”
New York-based Welsh Carson started the company in 2012 and has acquired and combined anesthesiology practices across a number of states. The complaint alleges that in Texas, which accounts for about 65% of the company's revenue, the private equity firm would eliminate competition and raise prices by acquiring small anesthesia practices and consolidating them in metro areas.
A 2022 peer-reviewed analysis of six years of data published in JAMA Internal Medicine found hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgery centers served by private-equity backed anesthesia companies raised prices by an average of 26% more than facilities served by independent anesthesia practices.
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