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Pennsylvania Optometrist Files Complaint Against Davis Vision, HVHC and Highmark

By Staff
Friday, June 16, 2017 12:30 AM


PHILADELPHIA— Alan Frank, OD, a Pennsylvania independent optometrist has filed a class action complaint “on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated” against Davis Vision Inc.,/ HVHC Inc. and their parent company Highmark Health in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ conduct “had and continues to have an anticompetitive purpose and effect on competition.”

Further, according to the complaint, “Davis Vision uses unlawful, unfair, and anticompetitive contractual and related restrictions to prohibit [independent ECPs] from steering patients to eyeglass frames and lenses that are less expensive, more convenient to obtain, or better quality than those Davis Vision mandates [independent ECPs] must offer patients with Davis Vision insurance.”

Davis Vision, along with the optical retailer Visionworks, is a division of HVHC. Highmark Health of Pittsburgh, Pa., is the parent company of both Davis and HVHC.

Frank operates two offices in northeastern Pennsylvania. The suit’s “proposed class,” according to the complaint, is comprised of independent ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians, and their practices, in Pennsylvania,” which may “number at a minimum in the many hundreds, if not thousands,” according to the complaint.

A spokesman for Highmark told VMail on Thursday that the company is “currently reviewing the suit and does not comment on pending litigation.”

The complaint also alleges that “because of Davis Vision’s anti-steering restriction, [independent ECPS] cannot compete on price and quality. That is, they cannot offer to fabricate patients’ eyeglass frames and lenses through a competing non-Davis Vision fabrication laboratory, even if doing so would be quicker, less expensive, or otherwise more beneficial for patients.”

Another related allegation in the complaint states that Davis Vision does not impose in Pennsylvania its mandatory laboratory policy on the “big box” retailers such as Wal-Mart or Costco, “presumably because they may possess countervailing market or negotiating power.”

The “relief” that the plaintiff is seeking includes: a decree that the alleged acts are deemed to be “anticompetitive or otherwise unlawful in violation of federal and state law;” a judgment for damages as a result of the alleged violations; a judgment on plaintiff’s claims for actual, double or treble damages, and declaratory and injunctive relief “requiring Davis Vision to reform or rescind the mandatory laboratory policy and other exclusionary terms.”

This complaint is similar to others that have been brought to courts over the past several years by other ECPs about certain managed care company policies. For example, a 2014 complaint against Davis Vision—Acuity Optical Laboratories v. Davis Vision Inc.— was brought by the independent lab Acuity and alleged that Davis’ mandatory laboratory policy harmed competition because it prevented ECPs from using “superior, and less costly, laboratories.” That suit, which VMail reported on at the time, was “privately settled” in December 2016, according to Frank’s complaint.

According to the complaint, Davis Vision provides vision insurance to “at least 65 percent or more of insured patients in Pennsylvania.”
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