The physician hospital organization of Oconee Memorial Hospital, Seneca, S.C., signed a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission to resolve price-fixing allegations. The FTC alleged that the 9-year-old PHO -- 100-physician Preferred Health Services -- represented 70% of independent doctors in the market and illegally negotiated collective contracts for the physicians, forcing health plans to pay higher prices. Preferred Health claimed it used a legal "messenger model" for negotiations and settled without admitting wrongdoing. The consent order bans the PHO from future illegal collective contracting and bars it from using the messenger model for three years. Read the settlement agreement and complaint. -- by Mark Taylor
S.C. PHO settles FTC price-fixing charges
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