The National Association of Attorneys General, which represents the highest-ranking state law enforcement officials, has decided to oppose any federal legislation that would exempt healthcare providers, including hospitals, from state antitrust scrutiny.
The Washington-based association adopted the position at its spring meeting late last month in Washington.
Healthcare providers have been lobbying Congress and the administration for antitrust relief, arguing that antitrust laws and enforcement policies have hindered collaboration among providers. They've stuck to their argument despite the fact that providers are engaging in collaborative activities at an unprecedented rate because of pending national healthcare reform.
In response to providers' requests, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission last year created six antitrust "safety zones" for provider activities that generally wouldn't be subject to antitrust scrutiny (Sept. 20, 1993, p. 3).
Some members of Congress have introduced legislation that would exempt hospitals and other providers from federal and state antitrust laws under certain conditions. Such a measure was introduced late last year by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas) (Jan. 10, p. 22).
In its two-page resolution, the association said competition among healthcare providers is essential to the success of reform because it can lead to lower costs, the development of new delivery systems and an increase in the amount of data that are available to the public. Because of this, the association opposes any legislation that would circumvent state antitrust enforcement or weaken antitrust standards for specific industries.