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CHICAGO - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against two Champaign County medical clinics, alleging the facilities denied primary care to new patients who were covered by Medicaid.

The antitrust lawsuit against Carle Clinic Association of Urbana and Christie Clinic of Champaign was filed Thursday in Champaign County Circuit Court.

It alleges that the facilities agreed to deny primary care to Medicaid-eligible patients in an effort to push more patients toward the emergency room, where reimbursement rates are higher.

Madigan said in a written statement that the policies left many of the 20,000 Medicaid-eligible children and adults in Champaign County at risk.

"Medical clinics, like other businesses, must adhere to the antitrust laws," Madigan said. "These laws prevent competitors, in all fields, from agreeing with each other to act collectively to limit access to services in order to raise prices."

Alan Gleghorn, Christie's chief executive, told the Chicago Tribune that Christie Clinic treats "more than its share" of Medicaid-eligible patients.

"Christie Clinic did not violate state antitrust laws and did not enter into any unlawful agreements with any of its competitors," Gleghorn told the Tribune.

Messages left at Gleghorn's office and with a spokeswoman for Carle Clinic before business hours Friday morning were not immediately returned.

The complaint asks the court to require the clinics to accept new Medicaid patients and also seeks civil penalties and damages.

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