Yesterday, I spoke to a group of antitrust practitioners and those involved in healthcare policy at AAI’s Healthcare Roundtable, where I discussed past and present FTC work to promote competition in healthcare markets.
The FTC has been especially busy with litigation lately, with two hospital merger trials concluded last year and five matters currently pending involving anticompetitive conduct by pharmaceutical manufacturers. Outside of the litigation spotlight, the Commission also has obtained significant settlements in healthcare matters.
Some might look at all this litigation and wonder if the FTC had succumbed to the lure of big headlines and suddenly embarked on an aggressive healthcare enforcement agenda. As former Chairman Bill Kovacic noted recently, government agencies face a perennial choice between consuming and investing. But he pointed to the FTC’s healthcare program as an example of “the importance and benefits of sustained investments in capability.” These investments began in the 1970s, when the FTC undertook strategic planning with a particular focus on healthcare, and have continued ever since. We study emerging trends, advocate for the adoption of healthcare policies that rely on competition as much as possible, and investigate potential law violations. From this continual cycle of learning and enforcement—or investment and consumption—we are in a position to provide guidance to courts, policymakers, and businesses whenever appropriate to advocate for the benefits of competition in healthcare markets and ensure good outcomes for consumers.
In the speech, I discuss some of the FTC’s origin cases in the healthcare field as well as more recent cases that target the same or similar competitive concerns. It might be a particular FTC habit to harken back to cases brought many years ago, but there are lessons in those cases as well as in our recent enforcement actions. To those who want to know where the FTC is going, I say look at where we’ve been.