Advocate Health Care, Oakbrook, Ill., confirmed that it has received subpoenas from the Federal Trade Commission regarding Advocate Health Partners (AHP), a 2,200-member physician organization owned jointly by the system and the physician members. Advocate spokesman Dan Parker declined to elaborate on the content of the subpoenas, which he said were received in June. "There's nothing that suggests we've done anything wrong, and we are cooperating fully," Parker said. Earlier this year, Advocate and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois engaged in a high-profile contracting dispute during which the Blues plan filed a private antitrust lawsuit against the system; the suit was subsequently withdrawn. Meanwhile, AHP's structure came up in a separate contract dispute with United HealthCare of Illinois.
United spokesman Michael Strand said the company played no role in the FTC investigation but has received an FTC request for information on its contract with Advocate. "It's not our place to discuss the FTC investigation, but it goes to the heart of some of the arguments we've been making over their structure," Strand said. In recent months, the FTC has accused at least 15 physician organizations of price fixing, arguing that they were not sufficiently clinically and financially integrated to legally negotiate as a group. Parker said AHP is clinically and financially integrated and Advocate is confident the review "will determine we are operating appropriately and legally." -- by Mark Taylor