PHYSICIAN UNIONIZATION: Arguments Heard By NLRB
The National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia yesterday heard testimony in a "precedent-setting hearing over whether private practice doctors may unionize." A group of 600 Southern New Jersey doctors are appealing to the NLRB for the right to "form a union and bargain collectively" with AmeriHealth HMO, arguing that by controlling their medical decisions the HMO has made them into de facto employees. But AmeriHealth General Manager Dr. Richard Gilfillan testified yesterday that the doctors are independent contractors. "We do not consider them employees. Our contracts specifically state they ... are independent contractors," he said. In his opening statement, Robert O'Brien, the attorney representing the doctors, countered, "If ever a situation existed where people are not independent contractors, this is it." In his cross-examination of Gilfillan, O'Brien elicited responses, the AP/Bergen Record reports, that indicated AmeriHealth's parent company, Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia, "exercises considerable control over what physicians are accepted in the HMO's network and renewed after reviews every two years." Steven Wall, attorney for AmeriHealth, stressed "that the doctors control their income," noting that "AmeriHealth only covers 7% of the insured residents of Cape May County and 4% in Atlantic County," the two counties where the doctors practice. The AP/Record reports that the "hearing is scheduled to last two to three weeks." After both sides submit all their briefs, the NLRB will issue an official ruling (Johnson, 11/5).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.