Examining health care competition: Time for another check-up

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When was your last health exam? Just as we (are supposed to) get regular check-ups from our health care providers, the FTC thinks it is smart to do a periodic check-up on the health care industry itself. Health care is a critical sector of the U.S. economy, affecting the lives of all American consumers. While health care has long been a significant part of the FTC’s portfolio – including many prior FTC workshops, studies, and reports – we have identified several topics that deserve a closer look at this time. For this reason, on March 20-21, 2014, the Commission will host a public workshop, “Examining Health Care Competition.”

Although the FTC is primarily a law enforcement agency, we also have unique policy, advocacy, research, and consumer education functions. The FTC’s Office of Policy Planning coordinates many of the agency’s long-range policy initiatives, utilizing a wide range of tools. Workshops, such as this one, are an effective way to enrich the Commission’s knowledge and thereby support all of our other activities.

The health care industry has evolved significantly in recent years. Many of these developments reflect general and longstanding concerns about cost, quality, access, and care coordination. The March workshop will bring together leading health care experts to discuss several specific topics, which will help us better understand the competitive dynamics of today’s health care service markets.

Our Federal Register notice announcing the workshop highlights many of the issues we intend to explore, revolving around five main themes:

  • professional regulation of health care providers, and how these regulations may affect competition and consumers;
  • innovations in health care delivery, including retail clinics and telemedicine;
  • advancements in health care technology that may have competitive implications, including new developments in electronic health records, health data exchanges, and technology platforms for health care payers and providers;
  • measuring and assessing quality of health care; and
  • price transparency of health care services.

The workshop will be open to the public and webcast on the FTC’s website. We are also accepting written comments through April 30, 2014. We welcome comments on additional health care competition and consumer protection topics, too – because when it comes to the health care industry, the “doctor is always in” at the FTC, and we may decide to convene subsequent workshops in the future.


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