ASHEVILLE – A motion filed in two Western North Carolina lawsuits against HCA Healthcare and Mission Health suggests Madison County will be the fourth WNC entity in less than a year to sue the hospital giant.
Embedded in the Aug. 4 motion — filed jointly in two lawsuits — are two references to Madison County, which has not made any official announcement or legal action against the hospital as of the day of the filing.
The 17-page motion proposes Buncombe and Asheville’s lawsuit merge with Brevard’s, given their many similarities, and mentions Madison in two paragraphs.
“The Parties also recognize that another county entity (Madison County) intends to bring the same claims on behalf of the same proposed class, and thus would be included as part of the Plaintiffs’ proposed Consolidated Complaint,” the motion stated.
More:Asheville, Buncombe file lawsuit against HCA/Mission Health, which vows to fight back
Later in the motion, attorneys suggest a single, consolidated lawsuit that includes Buncombe, Asheville, Brevard and Madison County be filed by Aug. 19.
“Plaintiffs shall file their Consolidated Complaint, including plaintiffs from the Brevard and Buncombe Actions as well as Madison County, by August 19, 2022, and that Plaintiffs’ filing of the Consolidated Complaint shall not prejudice their ability to amend as a matter of course, ” the motion states.
Madison County Interim Manager Norris Gentry told the Citizen Times “I have no comment,” when asked about the case.
Related:Will AG Stein, Treasurer Folwell get involved in new HCA lawsuits? Here’s what they said.
Attorney for Madison County Donny Laws also said he could not comment.
A Mission/HCA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Should Madison join the case against HCA, it would be the fourth entity in less than a year to bring a class-action or antitrust lawsuit against the company, which is the largest hospital owner in the US
In August 2021, six Asheville-area residents brought an antitrust lawsuit against the hospital company and its WNC network in Buncombe County Superior Court.
On June 3, the city of Brevard filed another, similar lawsuit in the US District Court of Western North Carolina.
Related:‘Stupid and dangerous’: Forum scrutinizes 3 hospitals’ competition for more Buncombe beds
More:Plaintiffs in HCA/Mission antitrust lawsuit double down on anti-steering accusations
On July 27, Buncombe and Asheville filed a joint lawsuit.
Much of the language and theory behind the Asheville-Buncombe suit was similar to that of the Brevard case, which essentially is why attorneys asked US District Court of Western North Carolina Chief Judge Martin Reidinger to merge them.
Reidinger is presiding over both cases currently.
The 59-page complaint from Buncombe and Asheville “details an extensive pattern of behavior by HCA intended to monopolize healthcare markets in western North Carolina,” according to a release from the city and the county.
The result of these practices, the city and county and Brevard allege, is artificially high prices for healthcare services and a reduced standard of care that has damaged, and continues to damage, local governments and private entities who act as self-insurers for their employees .
HCA does not operate a hospital in Madison County. However, Mission and two other hospitals are currently competing for a certificate of need to build 67 new acute-care beds in Buncombe, which are supposed to serve Madison County residents.
Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or email@example.com. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.