A Farmington, N.M., physicians association has agreed to settle price-fixing charges filed by the Federal Trade Commission, but it denies any wrongdoing.
William Cumberworth, M.D., medical director of the San Juan Independent Practice Association, said the group settled to save the cost of fighting the charges.
The FTC had accused the group of restraining competition among physicians in northwestern New Mexico by "orchestrating and implementing agreements among its member physicians to fix prices and other terms" under which health plans and insurers could get medical services for their members. The FTC accused the association of preventing doctors from dealing with payers "except on collectively determined terms."
Doctors in an independent practice can use such associations to help negotiate agreements with health plans and insurance companies. However, such associations are not allowed to set prices collectively and must deal with payers individually.
The San Juan IPA agreed in the settlement not to negotiate on behalf of physicians or set conditions under which physicians would deal with payers.
The agreement with the FTC "will not change the manner in which the San Juan IPA does business," said Dawn Brooks, chief executive officer of the association. She said the association does not make decisions on behalf of member doctors and does not negotiate fees.
"We do not agree with the allegations made in the settlement," she said.