In response to Michael Bryan's commentary on the "Tenn. Blues to list doctors' prices, ratings on Web":
In answer to Bryan's question why Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee's decision to publish physician fees doesn't violate the antitrust laws, the answer is that Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act requires that the conduct in question result from an agreement among separate organizations (usually competitors) before a violation can result. Blue Cross' action is unilateral. If competing physicians agreed to exchange fee information with one another, their conduct would be problematic under the antitrust laws, but not necessarily unlawful. Exchanges or dissemination of fee information can be procompetitive or anticompetive depending on the circumstances. On one hand, it permits buyers to make more rational purchasing decisions by providing them with valuable information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. On the other hand, it can result in explicit or tacit understandings among sellers about the prices they should demanda serious antitrust issue.
In deciding to publish the fee information, Blue Cross must have determined that the former effect was the more likely. But in any event, its publishing the information raises no antitrust problem because it did not "conspire" with another party to do so. Physicians and their practices are free to use the information themselves, individually, to decide what fees are acceptable to them, but they shouldn't collaborate with other groups in doing so.
Jeff MilesPrincipalOber KalerWashington To submit a letter to YOUR VIEWS, click here. Please include your name, title and hometown.