Assembly Bill Giving Doctors More Bargaining Clout May Spur Similar Measures Nationwide
An Assembly bill (AB 1600) that would give doctors "more bargaining power" over managed care plans "could spur similar initiatives across the country" if passed, the Wall Street Journal reports. The measure, which would exempt California doctors from a federal antitrust law barring physicians from "sharing information about their contracts and fees," cleared the state Assembly by a 59-8 vote earlier this month and now is pending in the Senate, where health plans face an "uphill battle to defeat" the bill. Health plans say the bill would lead to premium increases and would "undermine managed care." Proponents of the bill say that the California managed care industry has "become so powerful in the marketplace that doctors need a way to level the playing field." But Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, said it would allow solo practioners to "fix prices" without organizing into medical groups, giving doctors the opportunity to "raise fees without coordinating their care." The Journal reports that physician efforts to win exemptions from antitrust laws "aren't new, but are picking up steam." Two years ago, Texas passed a law that allows doctors to collectively negotiate for fees "under certain circumstances," and physician-negotiation bills "inspired by a model from the American Medical Association have been introduced in more than a dozen states." The Journal reports that because California has "long been viewed as a bellwether for managed care," the bill is "being closely watched by the health insurance industry and its representatives in Washington" (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 6/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.