The Federal Trade Commission concluded competition would be harmed under a Puerto Rico proposal that would allow collective bargaining among healthcare providers, including doctors, hospitals, diagnostic centers and others.
A bill pending before Puerto Rico's Senate seeks to "create a competitive equilibrium" among providers and payers. But the FTC staff responded that consumers could be "doubly harmed" if they're "forced to bear the brunt of the elevated fees charged by the provider cartel on top of any markup already charged by that health plan because of its market power." The FTC commentary was solicited by the president of the Treasury and Financial Affairs Commission of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives.
Federal antitrust enforcers consistently have taken a dim view of provider alliances that involve setting prices but fail to share financial risk or accomplish clinical integration that benefits consumers. In this and other commentary, the feds also have sought to emphasize their opinion of state laws or regulatory action that grants permission for behavior that violates federal antitrust laws. Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court, the staff notes that the national policy in favor of competition cannot be thwarted by casting a gauzy cloak of state involvement over what is essentially a private price-fixing scheme. -- by Gregg Blesch
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