Federal Trade Commission staff has advised the Central Texas Medical Group (CTMG), an independent practitioners' association in Brownwood, Texas, that its proposed method of operating is unlikely to violate federal antitrust laws. CTMG, set up to distribute information and educate its physician members on managed care and community issues, had sought an FTC staff opinion on its antitrust implications.
CTMG told the FTC staff that it will not engage in any discussion of fees to be charged by physicians in the community, will not serve as a contracting agent with managed care entities on behalf of any group of physicians, and will not offer recommendations to physician members regarding participation in any managed care proposal. Nor will individual physician members be restricted from entering into contracts with any managed care entities or from participating in any other insurance arrangements. CTMG does plan to educate physicians on managed care entities desiring to do business in the area, provide a forum for discussion of managed care development; and provide analysis of managed care contracts.
In a letter signed by Mark J. Horoschak, Assistant Director for Health Care in the FTC's Bureau of Competition, the FTC staff noted that the antitrust laws prohibit, among other things, agreements among competitors that restrain competition among them, but that providing information, by itself, does not restrain competition. Indeed, cooperative efforts to obtain and disseminate information about managed care organizations can be procompetitive and efficiency-enhancing, the letter states.
NOTE: This letter sets out the views of the staff of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, as authorized by the Commission's Rules of Practice. It has not been reviewed or approved by the Commission. As the Commission's rules explain, the staff's advice is rendered without prejudice to the right of the Commission later to rescind the advice and, where appropriate, to commence an enforcement proceeding. Staff advice concerning issues covered by the Federal Trade Commission/Department of Justice Health Care Policy Statements will be given within 90 to 120 days (depending on the topic) after all necessary information is provided.
Copies of the staff advisory opinion letter, the original inquiry, and the FTC/DOJ Health Care Policy Statements 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 FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov