Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz is stepping down from his role as one of the top antitrust watchdogs in Washington, but observers say a change in leadership is unlikely to remove healthcare as a top priority at the agency.
“Healthcare has been a priority here for many years,” said FTC Competition Bureau Director Richard Feinstein. “I think it's appropriate that it is, it affects everybody. And I would think it will remain a priority.”
Leibowitz will step down Feb. 15. He has served as one of five commissioners on the FTC since 2004, and has been chairman of the agency since March 2009. Under his chairmanship, the board took legal action to stop hospital mergers in Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania and filed the first-ever charges to protest a physician-practice acquisitions in Nevada.
The commission has also waged a high-profile battle against brand-name drug manufacturers who pay potential competitors not to release generic equivalent drugs to the market. In all of those cases, the commission said consumers would see higher healthcare prices because of reduced competition—an issue that the Obama administration has made an enforcement priority.