Today's News

Saturday, March 18, 2000

Rep. Campbell urges support of H.R. 1304

While trust is an imperative between doctor and patient, anti-trust may be of more pressing concern in the next few weeks. The House Judiciary committee is presently reviewing a bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell (R- Calif.) that may change the way medical professionals conduct business in America.

Rep. Campbell, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in California, has worked for four years on the H.R. 1304 bill that he hopes will help doctors present a united front to insurers with regard to improving patient care.

"According to the Sherman Anti-Trust act, it is per se illegal for doctors to get together to talk to one another about prices that affect their patients," Rep. Campbell said. "It strikes me as bizarre that Exxon and Mobil can merge, but two doctors cannot meet to talk about how they can improve the quality of care for their patients."

The bill, which Rep. Campbell suspects will come to a vote in the House later this month, has gained the bipartisan support of 203 of the 435 House legislators. He hopes to secure a majority before it comes to a floor vote. The bill would then advance to the Senate.

Rep. Campbell, an anti-trust law professor at Stanford Law School, authored the legislation to correct what he views as an historical misinterpretation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act as it now applies to the medical profession.

"The Sherman Anti-Trust Act is a criminal statute, and it was never intended to impact medical professionals," he said. "As it is now applied, doctors who meet to discuss pay rates may be subject to criminal prosecution."

The bill has received the support of the American Medical Association but faces strong opposition from the insurance industry.

"Allowing doctors to present a united front to an HMO may very well result in higher compensation for doctors, but that isn't what I'm concerned about," he said. "I'm concerned about higher quality care. No one can, in my judgment, look at the present level of quality care with an HMO and be satisfied with it."

The California congressman read aloud a list of those House members who have yet to support the bill. He urged medical professionals to call the Capitol in Washington D.C., (202) 225-3121, and ask their respective legislators to support the Campbell bill.

"This bill will be out of the House of Representatives in the next two weeks, so the time to do this is now," Rep. Campbell said. "I'm very optimistic that the bill will pass the House judiciary and we'll try to get greater support in the Senate.

"The idea is to let doctors practice their profession," he continued. "If the answer is improved quality of care and a distribution from an HMO, particularly one or two that are now in a monopsony, it will be a sharing of profit that might favor the doctor. I'm perfectly happy with that."

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Last modified 18/March/2000 by IS