Sutter Health Faces Heavy Backlash on Prices

Cooking dinner one night in March, Mark Frizzell sliced his pinkie finger while peeling a butternut squash and couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The 51-year-old businessman headed to the emergency room at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Sutter charged $1,555 for the 10 minutes it treated him, including $55 for a gel bandage and $487 for a tetanus shot.

“It was ridiculous,” Frizzell said. “Health insurance costs are through the roof because of things like this.”

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra couldn’t agree more. The state’s top cop is suing Sutter, accusing one of the nation’s biggest health systems of systematically overcharging patients and illegally driving out competition in Northern California.

In an effort to tamp down Sutter Health’s market power, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra is seeking to force it to negotiate reimbursements separately for each of its hospitals and to bar Sutter employees from sharing the details of those negotiations across its facilities. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

For years, economists and researchers have warned of the dangers posed by large health systems across the country that are gobbling up hospitals, surgery centers and physicians’ offices — enabling them to limit competition and hike prices. (see more)