As Mike Cassidy and Adam Appleberry discussed during their presentation at PBI’s A Day in Health Law earlier this month, private equity’s involvement in healthcare will be an interesting item to watch over the next few years. Just last week, the FTC sued the U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Inc. and their private equity backer Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, alleging a “multi-year anticompetitive scheme to consolidate anesthesia practices in Texas, drive up the price of anesthesia services provided to Texas patients, and increase their own profits.” (Click here to read the article)

Private equity arrangements in health care can provide great rewards for physicians seeking to increase their capital for whatever reason, be it to grow their practice or simply develop an exit strategy for retirement, but these deals do not come without risk. There is a growing trend amongst courts and regulators to view these arrangements with increased scrutiny. Recent studies have suggested that private equity’s involvement in healthcare could result in an overall higher cost to patients and payers while possibly providing a worst patient outcome (read one of those studies here). As these deals continue, the best interest of the public will remain the top priority in the eyes of regulators.

In the situation surrounding U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Inc. and Welsh, Carson, Anderson, & Stowe, after each acquisition, patient prices increased for using the same physicians for the same services as before. The FTC determined that this was an attempt to “unlawfully undermine fair competition and harm the American Public.”