Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department Oppose Collective Bargaining for Physicians
Allowing independent physicians to collectively bargain with health plans could enable doctors to conspire to fix prices, would "harm consumers financially and is unlikely to result in quality improvements," a report issued last week by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department stated, the Chicago Tribune reports. Independent physicians, who make up the majority of U.S. doctors, have been seeking legislation allowing them to unite to counter large insurers that doctors say "leverage their clout in particular areas of the country and force doctors into 'take-it-or-leave-it' managed-care contracts," the Tribune reports. Currently, independent physicians, who are largely self-employed, are barred from collective bargaining because they are considered independent contractors. "In many markets nationwide, physicians have no negotiating power with dominant insurers over contract terms that have a real impact on health care," Dr. Donald Palmisano, the American Medical Association's immediate past president, said. He added that AMA would "continue to oppose health insurer mergers that reduce competition." The report found that while there are "disparities in bargaining positions" among physicians and insurers, officials at FTC and DOJ believe that their institutions are adequately scrutinizing health plan mergers. The report added that any potential cases of excessive bargaining clout should be examined by state attorneys general. The findings on collective bargaining were part of a larger report covering health care competition and regulation that was compiled after two years of hearings, testimony and research involving more than 300 participants across the industry (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 7/29).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.