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An antitrust lawsuit against Intermountain Health Care has been tentatively settled, clearing the way for IHC to buy the Budge Clinic in Logan and for Cache Valley to get a new hospital.

The suit was filed April 28 by the Western Surgery Center and Cache Valley Hospital after IHC started negotiations to buy the Budge Clinic.Plaintiffs alleged the merger would give IHC an illegally high percentage of Cache Valley's primary care market and doctors at the clinic would refer patients to Logan Regional Hospital - an IHC facility - rather than the new hospital.

The agreement must be accepted by U.S. District Judge David Sam in Salt Lake City.

It would allow IHC to buy the Budge Clinic, but under the condition that the physicians there would be free to contract with whichever health insurance plan they desired for 31/2 years. By then, Cache Valley Hospital should be a fixture in the health-care market.

The new hospital is not open yet.

Logan Regional Hospital Administrator Richard Smith said the doctors would be free to choose a health plan other than IHC's, which generally refers patients to IHC hospitals.

"This is a big victory for Cache Valley Hospital and for the community," said E. Marlowe Goble, a surgeon and partner in both Western Surgery Center and the Cache Valley Hospital.

Goble said the new Cache Valley Hospital is a partnership among 23 local doctors.

However, a second antitrust suit filed by the surgical center against IHC is still pending before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson.

That complaint alleges Logan Regional "offered lucrative financial rewards" to physicians who referred patients to the hospital's surgery center rather than Western Surgery Center.