The FTC Sues U.S. Anesthesia Partners: Examining Alleged Monopoly Power and Anti-Competitive Practices

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken legal action against U.S. Anesthesia Partners, the largest anesthesiology provider in Texas. This move comes as the FTC claims that the company has been utilizing its monopoly power to drive up prices for patients, ultimately boosting its profits. In response, the FTC has filed a lawsuit seeking to break up U.S. Anesthesia Partners’ alleged monopoly power, as well as permanently prevent the company from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe: The Dominant Force Behind U.S. Anesthesia Partners

U.S. Anesthesia Partners was founded in 2012 by New York-based private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. The FTC alleges that Welsh Carson pursued an aggressive consolidation strategy to exploit Texas’ fragmented market for anesthesiology providers. The complaints suggest that Welsh Carson aimed to position U.S. Anesthesia Partners as the leading provider in Texas by acquiring multiple independent practices, which had previously competed with each other and kept prices relatively lower.

Under a strategy the companies referred to as a “roll-up,” Welsh Carson and USAP purchased almost every major anesthesia practice in Texas. This acquisition spree propelled USAP’s growth from 400 anesthesia providers at 45 healthcare facilities in 2013 to an extensive network of 4,500 providers at 1,100 facilities by 2021. The FTC asserts that this growth has granted USAP monopoly power in Houston and Dallas, the two largest cities in Texas, and established a dominant position in Austin, the state’s capital.

According to the FTC’s complaint, USAP has exploited its dominance to inflate prices, resulting in substantial financial gains. The company’s significant market position in Austin, Dallas, and Houston has allowed it to raise prices while simultaneously gaining market share. The complaint states that the difficulty for competitors to enter the market, combined with patients’ necessity for anesthesia, has made it challenging for market forces to regulate prices in these regions.

Dr. Derek Schoppa, a board member of U.S. Anesthesia Partners, has vehemently contested the FTC’s complaint. He claims that the FTC’s allegations are based on flawed legal theories and a lack of medical understanding pertaining to anesthesiology. Dr. Schoppa argues that the FTC’s intended outcome could potentially disrupt and limit patients’ equitable access to quality anesthesia care in Texas, ultimately having a negative impact on hospitals and health systems that provide care in underserved communities.

The Outcome: The Potential Implications of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit brought forth by the FTC against U.S. Anesthesia Partners raises critical questions about the role of monopoly power and anti-competitive practices within the healthcare industry. If the court rules in favor of the FTC, it could mark a significant step towards curbing monopolistic behavior and ensuring fair competition in the anesthesiology sector. However, the outcome of this litigation will have far-reaching implications for patients, hospitals, and healthcare providers throughout Texas, and the ultimate decision by the federal judge in Houston will shape the landscape of the anesthesia market in the state for years to come.

The FTC’s lawsuit against U.S. Anesthesia Partners underscores the potential harm that can arise from alleged monopoly power and anti-competitive practices. While the outcome of this legal battle remains uncertain, its impact on the anesthesiology industry and the wider healthcare sector could be substantial. As the case unfolds, it is crucial to closely monitor the developments and consider the ramifications for patient access, pricing, and competition within the Texas healthcare market.


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