Federal antitrust lawyers are attacking what they say was an illegal effort by Cincinnati-area obstetrician-gynecologists to work together to increase managed care reimbursement rates.[@@]
Officials in the antitrust division at the U.S. Department of Justice have negotiated a proposed final judgment that would prohibit 3 ob-gyns from using the Federation of Physicians and Dentists, Tallahassee, Fla., for any financial, legal, consulting or negotiating service concerning any payer contract or contract term.
The proposed judgment also would prohibit the settling physicians from communicating with any competing physician concerning any payer contract term.
The proposed judgment would not affect the settling physicians’ ability to talk to other physicians about the treatment of specific patients, participate in medical societies or shape public policy.
The Justice Department published a copy of the proposed final judgment and the government’s complaint today in the Federal Register. Members of the public have 60 days to comment on the proposal, which would resolve a civil suit that the Justice Department filed in June in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
Federal antitrust law treats physicians in private practice as service vendors rather than employees, and it prohibits them from joining together to win rate increases from managed care companies.
The Justice Department did agree in 2002 to a consent decree involving the Federation of Physicians and Dentists that allowed the federation to provide a “messenger service” for physicians and dentists wanting to communicate with managed care provider networks, but the consent decree prohibited the federation from giving competing physicians recommendations about provider contract terms.