The Federal Trade Commission accused two independent practice associations in the Kansas City, Kan., area and 18 physician groups represented by the IPAs of price-fixing, refusing to deal with health plans and restraining competition. The IPAs -- New Century Health Quality Alliance and Prime Care of Northeast Kansas -- and their physician officers and 127 primary-care physician members resolved the allegations in a consent decree, agreeing to stop the allegedly anti-competitive practices and behaviors. The four officers who were named are prohibited from negotiating, advising or representing physicians or IPAs in contracts with payers for three years. The defendants settled without admitting wrongdoing. At deadline, representatives of the IPAs could not be reached for comment.
The FTC contended that New Century and Prime Care combined operations and staff in 2002 and voted to merge in 2005 in order to gain leverage in negotiations with payers, but the two IPAs never formally consolidated. According to the FTC complaint, the IPAs and their physician members refused to deal with insurers individually in fee-for-service contracts. The FTC has resolved more than 30 price-fixing cases against IPAs and physician-hospital organizations in the past four years.