Kaiser Health News
: "Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz told a meeting of 300 health industry representatives Tuesday his agency would explore an 'expedited review process' for hospitals and doctors looking to determine if new partnerships they form to provide care would violate antitrust laws. He was one of several top federal officials trying to address the concerns of hospitals and doctors. A key part of the new health law encourages the development of 'accountable care organizations' that would allow doctors to team up with each other and with hospitals, in new ways, to provide medical services. Health care providers want to make sure their ACOs won't be accused of stifling competition or trying to fix prices when they bargain with insurance companies. Insurers, meanwhile, are expressing concern that providers could use the leverage of ACOs to demand higher prices" (Galewitz, 10/5). The Hill Healthwatch
: "The American Hospital Association released a study by the consulting firm Compass Lexecon on Tuesday questioning whether hospital consolidations are causing prices to rise. … Hospitals worry that ACOs could run afoul of federal antitrust restrictions and want these to be relaxed, but critics counter that doing so could lead to ever higher prices for consumers as the healthcare sector continues to consolidate." The report looked at two studies "linking hospital market power to rising prices" -- one in California and the other in Massachusetts -- and found "neither publication lends any credible support for such claims" (Pecquet, 10/5). ModernHealthcare
: "The Federal Trade Commission will explore the creation of new antitrust safe harbors and an expedited review process to foster the establishment of accountable care organizations, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said during a workshop at CMS headquarters in Baltimore. … The workshop is scheduled to include panels on potential conflicts between the integration that's key to ACOs and the government's frameworks for policing competition and the fraud and abuse laws" (Blesch, 10/5).