COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: House Approves Bill 276-136
A bill that would allow self-employed physicians to bargain collectively with insurance companies without violating federal antitrust laws passed the House 276 to 136 early this morning. The bill would exempt independent physicians from "major" antitrust provisions in negotiating for fees and contract terms, the New York Times reports. Under existing law, physicians who are employees of an organization such as a hospital already have the right to negotiate collectively with their employers. The American Medical Association lobbied for the bill as a necessary tool to allow physicians to promote patient care in negotiations with managed care organizations. "We've seen a massive consolidation of the health insurance market. We need to give relief to doctors," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). But federal antitrust officials, employers and insurers opposed the measure, claiming it would result in "doctor cartels" marked by greater costs to patients and employers. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.), also "became entangled in a furious debate over abortion rights" after an amendment was added stipulating that the right to bargain collectively did not include negotiations to force an insurer to provide or pay for abortions. That measure ultimately passed on a 213-202 vote. The bill now will be considered by the Senate, where its future is uncertain, as a "champion" for the measure has not emerged (Pear, 6/30).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.