Los Angeles Times Looks at Debate Over Physician Collective Bargaining Bill
The Los Angeles Times this weekend examined the debate between health plans and physicians over legislation (AB 1600) that would exempt doctors and medical groups from federal antitrust laws and permit them to collectively bargain with health plans over payments. The Times reports that doctors have "historically" been hesitant to unionize, but as medicine becomes more competitive they have started to "embrace the philosophy of strength in numbers." In previous attempts to gain more bargaining clout with health plans, doctors have joined independent practice associations, larger groups that negotiate with health plans and assume the financial risk of caring for patients. However, dozens of these associations have gone bankrupt, leaving them unable to pay physicians millions of dollars owed for patient care. Although the bill has passed the Assembly, its prospects in the Senate are "uncertain." Insurers, business groups and some consumer groups "strongly oppose" the bill, saying it would increase costs by allowing doctors to create "cartels" to force health plans to pay higher fees. The Times reports that Texas is the only state that allows doctors to bargain collectively. However, in that state the negotiating tactic is rarely used, partly because of the "large amount of documentation involved" (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/4).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.