Bellingham Anesthesia Associates (BAA) is a group of nearly 50 local anesthesiologists that have served the communities of Whatcom and Skagit counties, with distinction, for over 20 years. Millions of patients have benefitted from the expert care provided by our physician partners. In an era when private-equity backed national firms increasingly dominate the anesthesia market, we are proud of our status as a local physician owned practice—a small business.
The hospitals and the communities we serve require skilled professional anesthesiology coverage around the clock, 365 days a year, and we have made ourselves available to provide that. When a patient needs emergency surgery at 2AM, a mother in labor needs an epidural on Christmas Day, or an anxious child requires sedation for a MRI; we are there. Anesthesiologists from BAA provide our services every minute of the year in Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish counties. Our stable position in these communities has been thanks to the successful relationships we have forged with local hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), by providing high quality care any time of day or night.
In contrast to the dark picture painted of our practice, the consent decree we’ve entered into is not an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing on our part. We settled because our doctors and our community have more important issues to deal with during this pandemic. As a physician-owned small business we do not have the resources to take on the Attorney General (AG) in a protracted legal battle, regardless of our confidence that we would ultimately prevail.
While we settled with the AG and are looking to put the matter behind us, we vigorously dispute many of the claims in the Attorney General’s complaint that were unfairly presented as facts by the AG’s press release and in the Bellingham Herald article. In 2019, the Washington State Legislature enacted a law that set new boundaries on the use of non-compete agreements. We changed our non-competes when that law took effect and genuinely feel they were lawful and good for the community, as they helped attract and keep talented doctors here in Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish counties. The AG also investigated our use of exclusive arrangements with our hospital and ASC partners. Exclusive contracts are widespread in our industry, they benefit the hospitals and physician groups we partner with, and, most importantly, they benefit patients by guaranteeing anesthesia coverage around the clock. While the AG’s complaint and press release suggest our success as a small business has led to a monopoly, BAA has never attempted to utilize our position to raise reimbursements above market rates. Our rates are well below the greater Seattle area, and we remain consistently in the bottom 25th percentile of anesthesiologists nationwide.
Finally, we will continue to provide the same excellent service to our beloved community that has led to our success and stellar reputation. We look forward to taking care of you and your loved ones whenever you might need us.
Scott D. VanderLeest, MD
President, Bellingham Anesthesia Associates