Federal Trade Commission to help docs avoid anti-trust violations

As a key component of their new healthcare reform law, Democrats are encouraging providers to coordinate treatments as a way of streamlining care and eliminating costly redundancies. The idea is to move away from the current “silo” approach, under which doctors, hospitals and other providers are all paid separately for treating the same patient — often without communicating about their care.

Medical experts consider the establishment of more integrated accountable care organizations (ACOs) a promising model for reining in skyrocketing healthcare costs. But many providers remain wary, concerned that collaborating with their former competitors over costs might constitute collusion.

Leibowitz on Monday sought to temper those apprehensions.

“When we see a bona fide joint venture that is intended — and has the potential — to improve care and lower its cost, we won’t stand in the way,” he said. "The questions we ask are: What are the likely benefits of the collaboration? Are the joint negotiations reasonably necessary to achieve those benefits? And will the combined group be so large that it can raise prices?

Cecil Wilson, AMA's president-elect, hailed the FTC's announcement, saying the doctors' group will happily participate in the ACO workshop.