The only independent practice association to challenge Federal Trade Commission allegations of physician price-fixing lost its case Monday, Modern Healthcare has learned. According to sources close to the case, FTC Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled that 600-physician North Texas Specialty Physicians, Fort Worth, engaged in "unreasonable restraint of trade." North Texas was the only IPA to confront the FTC in its 3-year-old investigation into physician pricing, which so far has resulted in more than 20 consent decrees. Chappell's nearly 100-page opinion was released to FTC staff and North Texas for comments; it was expected to be made public by Nov. 15. Sources said both parties usually appeal elements of a decision to the FTC commissioners. Both the physician group and the FTC declined to comment.
In its September 2003 administrative complaint, the FTC alleged that North Texas illegally restrained trade by forcing health plans to negotiate overall prices and competitive terms for the IPA's physicians. North Texas denied the allegations. The case was argued in April and May. -- by Mark Taylor