The Federal Trade Commission accused 1,500-physician Brown and Toland Medical Group, San Francisco, of fixing prices and restraining trade through its contracts with PPOs. Brown and Toland said it will contest the allegations. The FTC has filed similar complaints against at least eight physician groups and associations in the past 20 months; this is the first that has not been accompanied by a consent decree settling the complaint. The FTC alleged that the independent physicians association, whose formal name is California Pacific Medical Group, negotiated unlawful fee-for-service contracts through a 600-physician PPO network it formed in 2001. The agency said the PPO network did not provide enough clinical integration to allow the physicians, who otherwise would be competing, to negotiate collectively on contract terms. In a written statement, Brown and Toland CEO Gloria Austin said the two sides reached an impasse after months of negotiations. "Brown and Toland firmly believes it has followed the FTC's own guidelines and strongly disagrees with the allegations set forth in the FTC's complaint," Austin said. FTC commissioners voted 5-to-0 to bring the complaint, which seeks to terminate the contracts in question and prohibit similar conduct in the future. An FTC official said the case should go before an administrative judge within a year. -- by Mark Taylor
FTC alleges Brown and Toland fixed prices to PPOs
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