Ep 69: The Story of CRNAs & an Antitrust Victory with Tafford & Lori Oltz – Part 1

This is the story about Tafford Oltz, CRNA, and his antitrust victory in the late-80s, which came to our attention during a previous podcast. When we heard it, we had to talk with Taff and his wife Lori – also a CRNA – to hear how it all happened. It’s a fascinating story that hinges on a manilla folder and you’ll hear all the details that led up to the trial in part one. 

Click the timestamps below to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

On This Episode:

Not that long ago, we were having a conversation with Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, for the podcast when she mentioned antitrust case involving a CRNA out in Montana. It happened a little more than 30 years ago but the couple that ended up winning against the hospital still lives out there.

So we had to connect with them and hear this story because it’s might just be the only antitrust victory for a CRNA. Thankfully, Tafford Oltz, CRNA, and his wife Lori Oltz, CRNA, agreed to join us on Beyond the Mask to relive that story. It turned into such a great conversation that we had to break it up into two different episodes.

On this first one, we’ll go through the entire backstory with Taff. Among the things we’ll cover are how he began working as a nurse anesthetist, how he established work at St. Peter’s Community Hospital in Helena, Montana, and what it was like working in the 70s and 80s alongside these M.D. anesthesiologists.

Then we turn to what led to the eventual antitrust lawsuit against the hospital. We’ll let him tell the full story on the podcast, but here’s a quick background.

Taff worked as an independent contractor for the St. Peter’s and had a great relationship with the surgeons and patients. When the hospital brought in a third M.D. anesthesiologist, that’s when everything started changing. When the M.D. couldn’t convince the surgeon to stop using a CRNA, the plan got even more sinister.

They would exclude him from meetings and he eventually wasn’t getting calls because the surgeon thought he wasn’t available. That’s when he found a manilla folder that the M.D. anesthesiologists had been carrying around. In it was letters and a blueprint plan on how to get rid of his billing contract from the hospital. You’ll hear all about the details of that on the show.

As you’ll quickly find out, Lori is well-versed in antitrust law now and she breaks down all fo the details of the case and how they were able to compile a lot of evidence to defend their claim.

It’s a fascinating story and one you have to listen to. If you want to read more about the case, here’s a summary. Join us next week for part two and the conclusion.  

Check it out at the top of the page and use the timestamps to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

[2:30] – We think this is going to be one of the most interesting podcast we’ve done.

[3:50] – Background on the Oltz vs St. Peter’s Community Hospital case.

[3:47] – Tafford Oltz and his wife Lori tell us about their background.

[4:54] – The couple just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

[5:15] – How their employment was structured in the 70s and how the relationship with St. Peter’s began.

[9:23] – Taff shares one specific patient story he still remembers.

[9:56] – The medical landscape in Montana in the mid-70s.

[10:31] – When the third MD arrived, he informed the vascular surgeon the use of a CRNA was medical malpractice.

[11:46] – Here’s how a typical day looked for Taff with a 100-mile commute.

[13:05] – What changed with his situation?

[14:45] – The story turns because of a folder. Taff explains.

[17:40] – Lori shares details of what was actually written in some of the letters.

[19:38] – How was that working relationship after finding out about their plans?

[21:52] – How the lawsuit began.

[22:45] – What anti-trust litigation is and the three things you need for a case.

[27:07] – Many courts aren’t familiar with anti-trust cases. There had only been one prior in Montana.

[28:41] – Once they started investigating, they found St. Peter’s market power near 84%. 

[30:31] – The hospital produced a letter that the anesthesiologists were increasing charges by 10%.

[32:58] – How do you choose legal representation for a case like this and what were the costs?

[37:15] – How important were other cases at the time?

[44:17] – The role Lori played during the trial.

[46:07] – To be continued…


“A third M.D. anesthesiologist arrived, who on arrival informed the vascular surgeon that I worked with that the use of CRNA was medical malpractice. The surgeon Dr. Jack McMahon’s response was immediate and not favorable to the M.D. anesthesiologist.” 

-Tafford Oltz, CRNA,

Share this episode with a friend: