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    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    Join Us or We'll Sue: Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Montana which already contracts with 93% of the state's doctors and covers 2/3 of the state's population is suing the only radiology group in Missoula, Monatana because they won't sign up with the plan:

    Antitrust attorneys across the nation are watching the progress of the Blues' lawsuit against Missoula Radiology, the only radiology practice in Missoula, Mont. The Blues plan says the suit, which seeks to break up a 12-physician group it calls a "predatory monopoly," is about market competition, not the group's refusal to be part of the plan's network.

    But many doctors say if the Blues plan is successful in its case, it could embolden other plans to sue physicians who refuse to sign a contract. In fact, after the lawsuit was filed Sept. 14, a seven-physician neurology group and a six-physician surgery group announced they would drop their Blues contracts, in part to show solidarity with Missoula Radiology.

    "They're going to prove with this [suit] they can do it and then subtly make an implicit threat to other groups: 'We can do this to you if you don't join our network,' " said Nick Chandler, MD, president of Missoula Neurological Associates.

    Dr. Chandler, who is also chair of InterWest Health, a Missoula PPO that competes with BlueCross, said the suit bothers him from two perspectives. "As a physician it sends chills down my spine, and as a managed care executive I think there are certain business practices that managed care organizations can't ethically adopt.

     

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