Monday, November 22, 2010

Antitrust Concerns Rise in Wake of Health Care Reform

The New York Times reports that the cost-sharing and coordination-of-care measures in which health care industry participants are engaging in response to the new health care legislation are prompting concerns of anticompetitive behavior.  The article explains,

[E]ight months into the new law, there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics, and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings and cash in on the incentives.  They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists to try to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive older laws intended to thwart monopolies and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare. 

Some consumer advocates fear that the new law could reduce competition, raise health care costs, and create “incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care.”  The article notes the difficult job facing regulators:

[Several governmental] agencies are writing regulations to govern the new entities, known as accountable care organizations. They face a delicate task: balancing the potential benefits of clinical cooperation with the need to enforce fraud, abuse, and antitrust laws. 

“If accountable care organizations end up stifling rather than unleashing competition,’’ said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, “we will have let one of the great opportunities for health care reform slip away.’’

For the full story, see Robert Pear, Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers.


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