Proposed Alabama Law Bad for Patients, FTC Says

     CN) — Proposed health care legislation in Alabama could potentially harm patients in the state by raising health care costs and decreasing access to health care providers, the Federal Trade Commission says.
     In comments compiled by the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning and its Bureaus of Economics and Competition, the FTC stated that the proposed legislation could possibly encourage “groups of private health care providers to engage in blatantly anticompetitive conduct.”
     According to the FTC, the legislation would exempt certain health care authorities and their affiliates from federal antitrust laws.
     “House Bill 241 and Senate Bill 243 seek to immunize potentially anticompetitive conduct from federal antitrust scrutiny,” the agency stated. “If effective, these bills could shield anticompetitive mergers, price fixing, boycotts, and a wide variety of other anticompetitive conduct that harms consumers.”
     The bills specifically would allow for the creation of health care “authorities” within the state by public universities operating medical schools, in collaboration with “all types of health care providers.” Those authorities and their “university affiliates, as well as the public or private entities and individuals with which they collaborate” would then be protected from antitrust laws.
     In its analysis of the legislation, the FTC stated: “Many health care provider collaborations can be efficient and beneficial, and no antitrust exemption is needed to permit them from occurring. Indeed, the Bill appears to reflect mistaken beliefs about the antitrust laws and the benefits of competition among health care providers. If enacted, the exemption would not improve patient care, but would likely raise health care costs and decrease access to care.”
     The comments were written in response to a request from state Sen. Larry Stutts.

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