AMA meeting: Delegates renew efforts for antitrust relief
■ The AMA house says changes are needed to help physicians collaborate on quality and cost-improvement initiatives that will be key to health system reform.
By Amy Lynn Sorrel — Posted June 29, 2009
Chicago -- Physicians say antitrust relief is going to play a key role in making health system reform succeed.
That's why the AMA House of Delegates at its Annual Meeting voted to have the Association renew its strategies for enhancing physicians' abilities to bargain collectively with health insurers without running afoul of antitrust laws. Delegates also want to see the AMA continue to press the Federal Trade Commission and the Dept. of Justice for a more flexible policy allowing individual physicians to collaborate through joint ventures.
"We hope this will be a part of health reform, and we are prepared to push for that," said AMA President-Elect Cecil B. Wilson, MD.
Organized medicine has made progress in recent discussions with the new leadership at the FTC and Justice Dept., as well as congressional leaders, he said. The house voted to have the AMA report back on those advocacy efforts through the Association's member communications.
Delegates expressed concern that current antitrust barriers make it difficult for doctors to collaborate on quality and cost-improvement measures that are often too expensive for smaller physician practices. The affordability of health information technology initiatives, a key component of health system reform, is one such hurdle, they said.
Being able to negotiate collectively would help put physicians on a level playing field when contracting with large health insurance companies, Dr. Wilson said.
Current antitrust laws are "outdated" and ignore recent changes in the health care environment, according to an AMA Board of Trustees report. Such changes include a largely consolidated health insurance market and new pay-for-performance reimbursement mechanisms that rely on the collection of cost and quality data.
The AMA has proposed to the FTC, the Justice Dept. and lawmakers a range of modifications to antitrust laws and regulations that would give physicians more leeway to integrate, as long as the networks do not exercise market power or result in any anticompetitive effects, the report said.