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California hospital chain going to court over high prices

SAN FRANCISCO — One of California’s largest hospital systems faces a trial over accusations that it has used its market dominance to snuff out competition and overcharge patients for medical bills.

Opening remarks are scheduled for Thursday in San Francisco in an antitrust case against Sutter Health, which operates 24 hospitals with 5,500 doctors across Northern California.

The case was brought by employers and unions and joined last year by a similar suit from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office conducted a six-year investigation.

The plaintiffs accuse Sutter Health of violating the state’s antitrust laws and say it is ripping off consumers. A 2018 study found unadjusted inpatient procedure prices are 70% higher in Northern California than Southern California.

Sutter Health officials deny the company has done anything wrong and say insurance companies are to blame for higher prices.

Jocelyn Gecker, The Associated Press