The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken legal action against U.S. Anesthesia Partners (USAP), the largest anesthesiology provider in Texas, accusing the company of monopolistic practices that drive up prices for patients. The FTC has requested a federal judge in Houston to dismantle USAP’s alleged monopoly and permanently prohibit the firm from engaging in anti-competitive behavior.
The FTC alleges that private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, based in New York, established USAP in 2012 with the goal of dominating the anesthesiology provider market in Texas. They achieved this by acquiring numerous independent practices that had previously competed with each other, effectively consolidating the market.
USAP’s growth has been substantial, expanding from 400 anesthesia providers at 45 healthcare facilities in 2013 to 4,500 providers at 1,100 facilities in 2021. The company has established monopoly power in major Texas cities like Houston and Dallas and a dominant position in Austin, the state’s capital, according to the FTC’s complaint.
The FTC alleges that USAP has leveraged its dominant position to increase prices, resulting in significant profits. The complaint argues that the company’s market power allows it to raise prices while still gaining market share, as competitors find it challenging to enter the market, and patients have limited options when it comes to anesthesia services.
In response, Dr. Derek Schoppa, a USAP board member, contends that the FTC’s complaint is based on flawed legal theories and a lack of understanding about anesthesiology. He argues that the FTC’s actions could disrupt patient access to quality anesthesia care in Texas and negatively impact hospitals and health systems, particularly in underserved communities.