April 2002 Bulletin

Barr-Conyers legislation would allow collective negotiation

Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced the Health Care Antitrust Improvement Act of 2002. The legislation, introduced on March 7, would allow physicians and other health care providers to collectively negotiate with health plans without violating federal antitrust laws. Under the Barr-Conyers legislation, physicians and other health care professionals in small or solo practices would be able to jointly negotiate with health plans without fear of automatically violating antitrust laws; negotiations would be evaluated based on their reasonableness and factors, such as patient access and quality of care, would have to be considered; and demonstration projects would occur in certain states. The American Medical Association, along with more than 35 national medical specialty societies (including the AAOS) supports the Barr-Conyers legislation.

According to Rep. Barr, "Over the last several years, it has become clear the quality of patient care and ability of doctors to administer that care has been compromised by the economic clout of the HMOs. Federal antitrust laws, which were intended to protect the Davids from the Goliaths, are instead having the opposite effect, and clearly something has to be done. This bill, along with comprehensive HMO reform, are important steps toward improving patient care and ensuring doctors, not HMO bureaucrats, are making the important medical decisions."


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