Perspectives from the Federal Antitrust Enforcement Agencies

The Antitrust in Health Care conference took place May 13 to 14, 2014, in Arlington, Virginia, where a number of the speakers were representatives of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Collectively, the government speakers covered a wide range of “hot topics” relevant to the health care/antitrust field, but they all expressed one common theme: that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the antitrust laws are fully aligned in promoting lower costs, increased access and higher quality in health care through the principles of market competition. The conference was sponsored by the American Health Lawyers Association and the Antitrust Law and Health Law Sections of the American Bar Association.

FTC/DOJ Representatives Affirm ACA/Antitrust Alignment -

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez delivered the keynote speech. In it, she emphasized that antitrust enforcement and competition policy in health care continues to be a Commission “top priority.” The FTC recognizes that health care markets are evolving, she said, but the agency also understands that restraints on competition in markets can result in higher prices and lower quality. The chairwoman acknowledged the ACA’s laudable aims of promoting better quality and lower costs through efficiently integrated delivery, and said the FTC wants to ensure that efforts to provide coordinated care do not lead to anticompetitive effects that undermine the ACA’s purpose by creating market power. She emphasized that the goals of health care reform can be achieved in ways that do not raise antitrust concerns. Citing the recent district court decision in the FTC’s (and others’) challenge to St. Luke’s Health System’s acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group in Idaho—which found that a merger was not necessary to achieve the intended objective of improving the delivery of health care and patient outcomes—Chairwoman Ramirez said that full consolidation is not always essential to achieving procompetitive benefits of higher quality and reduced cost. She urged market participants to consider other collaborative arrangements short of consolidation that could achieve the same benefits but not create market power.

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