The Federal Trade Commission settled its 10th price-fixing case against physicians in the past 20 months, filing a consent decree preventing an independent practice association in Baton Rouge, La., and its consultant from negotiating with health plans on behalf of the IPA's doctors, collectively negotiating prices or engaging in other anticompetitive behavior. In an 11th price-fixing case filed earlier this month, Brown & Toland Medical Group, San Francisco, said it will fight the FTC's charges. The latest consent decree involves 28-physician Professional Orthopedic Services, whose members provide about 70% of orthopedic services in Baton Rouge; three orthopedic practices in the IPA; the IPA's consultant, Physician Network Consulting, Metairie, La.; and the consulting firm's managing director, Michael Taylor. Taylor declined to comment on behalf of the IPA or his firm.
The FTC alleged that the orthopedic practices and the IPA agreed in July 2001 to terminate contracts with United HealthCare of Louisiana and authorized the consulting firm to act as their common agent in negotiating better terms. The doctors subsequently refused to deal with United, except under the agreed-upon terms, violating antitrust law, the FTC said. The consent decree will become final Aug. 19, pending approval from the FTC commissioners. -- by Mark Taylor