Nebraska's 94 hospitals and other healthcare providers will be granted antitrust relief to negotiate collaborative ventures and mergers through a bill approved by the state's Legislature.
The Nebraska Legislature last week endorsed the measure, which would give state antitrust relief to hospitals, physicians and other practitioners. Gov. Ben Nelson was expected to sign the bill into law late last week or early this week. The law would become effective immediately.
"Depending on who you talk to, there are varying degrees on what you can and can't do, but this would help clear the air and add another piece to the planning step of healthcare providers," said Harlan Heald, president of the Nebraska Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.
The law was introduced on the association's behalf.
At least nine states already offer hospitals similar antitrust protection (Aug. 9, 1993, p. 8).
Nebraska's new law will permit collaborative hospital ventures if "advantages outweighed disadvantages," said Roger Keetle, senior vice president and general counsel for NAHHS. Hospitals would promise to control healthcare costs, eliminate duplications of services and reduce the number of healthcare facilities.
Nebraska's bill applies to hospitals and other healthcare providers and specifically covers mergers and acquisitions, Mr. Keetle said.
The new law provides state supervision of collaborative agreements by the Nebraska Department of Health. "The certificate can be revoked by anyone who feels grieved," Mr. Keetle said. "There will be active supervision and anyone can petition the Nebraska Department of Health. It's not an ironclad certification process."
A group of Nebraska hospitals is considering a collaborative effort of "putting together their medical staffs to form a regional medical staff," Mr. Keetle said. He wouldn't disclose the hospitals or medical staffs involved in the venture, but he said a more liberal antitrust law like the one approved will help their effort.