The Federal Trade Commission continues to see a "wide variety of overt anticompetitive behavior" in healthcare, FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said today, and he vowed to protect consumers and encourage free competition. Speaking at a healthcare antitrust forum in Chicago, Muris said the FTC and the Justice Department will hold 20 joint hearings during 2003 on the healthcare marketplace and competition law, covering a range of topics including hospital mergers, the significance of not-for-profit status and vertical integration. Muris also said quality outcomes will play a greater role in healthcare competition. "Quality is a major item, and we want to learn more how it should be considered in healthcare antitrust regulation," he said at the conference, co-sponsored by Modern Healthcare and Modern Physician magazines. He noted that many of the FTC's latest actions involve allegations of physicians and consultants coordinating price-fixing under the guise of assisting in negotiations with health plans. Muris also discussed the government's lack of success in challenging hospital mergers in the past eight years and said a new "merger litigation task force" in the FTC's Bureau of Competition should strengthen the government's position in the future. Read Muris' speech online at www.ftc.gov. -- by Mark Taylor
FTC, Justice plan hearings on healthcare competition
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