Sutter Health reaches settlement with California, union before antitrust trial

SAN FRANCISCO — The big California health system Sutter Health today reached an agreement with the state of California and a union trust, avoiding a much-anticipated antitrust trial over whether its negotiating tactics with health plans amounted to anti-competitive behavior.

The settlement was announced by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo after a hearing. Terms won’t be released until February or early March, she said.

The settlement would resolve a lawsuit filed in 2014 by a trust that pays health care costs on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers union and self-funded employers, as well as a separate suit filed in 2018 by Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The case became a symbol of concern over big hospital chains that require insurers to access their networks on an all-or-nothing basis and make it harder for plans to steer patients to lower-cost competitors.