Competition continues to be on the priority agenda for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It recently hosted a workshop to gain input from healthcare industry experts about the degree to which promoting healthcare competition is integral to improving quality, lowering costs and expanding access.
The FTC’s focus on competition isn’t new—it devoted a lot of attention to competition in the early 2000s, and hospital consolidation was in the spotlight at that time. After a series of joint hearings conducted by the FTC and U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, the agencies released a report in 2004 with their recommendations for antitrust enforcement in the healthcare industry.
Although hospital consolidation has continued since then, activity began to pick up again shortly before implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since implementation, consolidation activity appears to be on a fast track. And the FTC, along with other antitrust agencies, again focused its efforts on trends in hospital consolidation and physician group acquisition, and their impact on competition.
Today, oversight of such activity by the FTC includes:
- The interplay of quality measures and price transparency
- Professional regulation of healthcare providers
- Innovations and advancements in healthcare delivery and technology
The FTC has stated that competition in healthcare is a high priority because “vigorous competition promotes increased quality and lower costs,” and encourages coordination of care.
It isn’t clear whether the FTC will issue specific reports or guidelines on consolidation and its effect on competition, but in all likelihood it and other antitrust agencies will continue to examine these issues and focus their enforcement efforts in the healthcare industry.
(“FTC Check-Up on Health Care Trends Reveals New Competitive Wrinkles—Highlights from the FTC Workshop ‘Examining Health Care Competition,’” Health Lawyers Weekly, April 11, 2014)
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