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FTC Settles Charges That Colorado Physicians Group Director Attempted to Evade Terms of 2008 Price-Fixing Order
Commission Approves FY 2008 HSR Premerger Notification Report; FTC Approves Final Consent Order in Matter Concerning Alta Bates Medical Group
Alta Bates Medical Group, Inc., a 600-physician independent practice association serving the Berkeley and Oakland, California, area, settleed Commission charges that it violated federal antitrust law by fixing prices charged to health care insurers. The consent order prohibits Alta Bates from collectively negotiating fee-for-service reimbursements and engaging in related anticompetitive conduct. In addition to price-fixing of fee-for-service reimbursements, the FTC’s complaint alleges an unlawful concerted refusal to deal.
Commission Approves Final Consent Order in Matter of AllCare IPA; FTC Approves Final Consent Order in Matter of King Pharmaceuticals/Alpharma Inc.
The Commission challenged the conduct of AllCare IPA, alleging that AllCare restrained competition in fee-for-service contracts by fixing prices and other contract terms with payers, engaging in collective negotiations over the terms and conditions of dealing with payers, and preventing group members from negotiating with payers except on terms approved by All Care. The Commission issued a consent order prohibiting All Care from entering into agreements between or among physicians: 1) to negotiate on behalf of any physician with any payer; 2) to refuse to deal, or threaten to refuse to deal, with any payer; 3) to designate the terms, conditions, or requirements upon which any physician deals, or is willing to deal, with any payer, including, but not limited to price terms; 4) not to deal individually with any payer, or not to deal with any payer through any arrangement other than one involving All Care.
An administrative law judge upheld the administrative complaint that charged that the North Texas Specialty Physicians (NTSP), a physician group practicing in Forth Worth, Texas, collectively determined acceptable fees for physician services in negotiating contracts with health insurance plans and other third party payers; thus engaging in horizontal price fixing. On December 1, 2005, the Commission issued a unanimous decision upholding the allegations that NTSP negotiated agreements among participating physicians on price and other terms, refused to negotiate with payers except on terms agreed to among its members, and refused to submit payors offers to members if the terms did not satisfy the group’s demands. The Commission concluded that the group’s contracting activities with payors amounts to unlawful horizontal price fixing and that respondent’s efficiency claims were not legitimate and not supported by the evidence.
The respondent appealed the Commission decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Court agreed with the Commission that the anticompetitive effects of NTSP’s practices were obvious. Per remand by the Court, the Commission modified one provision of its remedial order, issuing a Final Order in September 2008. On February 28, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied NTSP's petition for review.
There is a related administrative proceeding.
On March 7, 2007, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the appeal by respondents of the Commission's opinion in NTSP. The Court agreed with the Commission that the anticompetitive effects of NTSP’s practices were obvious. Per remand by the Court, the Commission modified one provision of its remedial order, issuing a Final Order in September 2008. On February 28, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied NTSP's petition for review.
U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms FTC Decision That Texas Doctors Group Engaged in Illegal, Anticompetitive Price-Fixing
Connecticut Chiropractic Association, The; Connecticut Chiropractic Council, The; and Robert L. Hirtle, Esq., In the Matter of
The FTC challenged a group boycott between two Connecticut chiropractic associations in which the health care providers refused to deal with a cost-saving Connecticut health plan. The Commission issued a consent order ending the agreement and preventing the involved parties from entering into such agreements in the future.
Commission Approves Final Consent Orders in Matters of South Carolina State Board of Dentistry and Colegio de Optometras de Puerto Rico
The Commission charged a group of optometrists in Puerto Rico with violating the FTC Act by orchestrating agreements among members of the Colegio de Optometras to refuse, or threaten to refuse, to accept vision and health care contracts except on collectively agreed-upon terms. Two leaders of the group were also charged with facilitating the agreement by urging members not to participate in the vision network. The Commission’s consent order settling these charges bars the group and the two leaders from engaging in such conduct, while allowing them to undertake certain kinds of joint contracting arrangements by which physician participants control costs and improve quality by managing the provision of services. FTC staff worked with the Office of Monopolistic Affairs of Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice on this case.
The Commission settled a September 15 2003 administrative complaint charging the South Carolina State Board of Dentistry with unlawfully restraining competition by enacting a rule that required a dentist to examine every child before a dental hygienist could provide preventive dental care – such as cleanings – in schools. The Board, which is a state regulatory agency composed primarily of practicing dentists, claimed that its actions were immune from antitrust challenge under the state action doctrine, but that argument was rejected in a 2004 Commission opinion holding that the Board’s conduct was directly contrary to state law. In 2006, the court of appeals dismissed the Board’s interlocutory petition for review for lack of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari in January 2007. The FTC’s 2007 consent requires the Board to publicly support the current state public health program that allows hygienists to provide preventive dental care to schoolchildren, especially those from low-income families.
FTC Charges Puerto Rico Optometrists Group, Two of its Leaders, With Orchestrating Price-Fixing Conspiracy
South Carolina Board of Dentistry Settles Charges That it Restrained Competition in the Provision of Preventive Care by Dental Hygienists
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