The U.S. Justice Department is developing a new antitrust "safety zone" for physician-hospital organizations that would insulate some PHOs from federal antitrust laws, said Anne Bingaman, assistant attorney general in the department's antitrust division.
Ms. Bingaman made the pronouncement last week at a healthcare antitrust conference in Washington sponsored by the National Health Lawyers Association.
Ms. Bingaman also said the agency would oppose any federal legislation that would exempt hospitals and other providers from federal antitrust laws. Such a bill has been introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), despite the fact that collaborative ventures among hospitals and physicians have been flourishing because of the healthcare reform movement (Dec. 20/27, 1993, p. 3).
The new PHO safety zone would be added to the six safety zones outlined in the healthcare antitrust guidelines issued by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission last September. The guidelines describe types of collaborative ventures among providers that in most cases won't violate federal antitrust laws.
PHOs are new organizations formed by hospitals and key members of their medical staffs to attract direct contracts from purchasers and payers of healthcare services.
Ms. Bingaman said the agency has no deadline by which it wants to issue the PHO safety zone.