The Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to a consent agreement with Physicians Group, Inc. and its board of directors, settling charges that they conspired to prevent third- party payors from doing business, to fix terms of reimbursement from payors, and to resist payorsþ cost-containment measures. The Commission's action makes the consent order provisions binding on the respondents.
Physicians Group, Inc. is based in Danville, Virginia. Its board members, all physicians with medical offices in Danville, are Edwin J. Harvie, Jr., Eric N. Davidson, Milton Greenberg, Noah F. Gibson, IV, William W. Henderson, IV, Douglas W. Shiflett, and Lawrence G. Fehrenbaker.
Under the final order, Physicianþs Group, Inc. is to be dissolved within 120 days. The settlement also contains provisions prohibiting Physicians Group, Inc., until it is dissolved, and its seven board members from attempting to engage in an agreement or agreeing with other physicians, to:
Further, it prohibits them from encouraging or inducing any physician to:
In addition, the settlement requires Physicians Group, Inc. to distribute copies of the complaint and settlement to both past and present members and to each payor who communicated any interest in contracting for physician services with Physicians Group, Inc. or its directors since it was established.
The settlement does not prohibit respondent physicians who practice together as partners or employees, or who participate in integrated joint ventures, from collectively dealing with payors; nor does it prohibit the respondents from petitioning governmental entities or from participating at the request of a payor in certain utilization review activities.
Finally, the settlement contains various reporting provisions designed to assist the FTC in monitoring compliance.
The consent agreement was announced for a public-comment period on April 26. The Commission vote to issue it in final form occurred on Aug. 11, and was 5-0.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions by the respondents. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
A news release summarizing the complaint and consent agreement was issued at the time the Commission accepted the consent agreement for public comment. Copies of that release and of the complaint and final order are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTCþs NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTCþs World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 931 0083)