The antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department has blocked a union affiliate from helping Cincinnati-area gynecologists bargain for higher rates from managed care companies.
The Federation of Physicians and Dentists, Tallahassee, Fla., has agreed to accept a proposed final judgment that would limit its efforts to strengthen physicians’ negotiating power.
The settlement would resolve United States of America vs. Federation of Physicians and Dentists et al., a civil antitrust suit the division filed against the federation in 2005, in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. The division published a notice of the proposed final judgment in the Federal Register earlier this week.
The federation, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, Washington, has accused managed care companies of making unfair use of their clout to hold down the reimbursement rates for the doctors in their provider networks.
Federal law prohibits independent physicians from joining unions, but the federation was trying to overcome that obstacle by giving doctors who join the federation private coaching on how to negotiate better contracts.
As a result of federation efforts to help Cincinnati ob-gyns from September 2002 to late 2003, the three largest Cincinnati-area health care insurers were forced to increase fees for federation member ob-gyns by more than 15% in 2003, more than 20% in 2004 and more than 25% in 2005, officials say in the impact statement.
The antitrust division accused the federation, a federation employee and three local physicians who helped the federation, of violating Sherman Act antitrust provisions.
The three physicians settled in November 2005.
The proposed final judgment with the federation and the federation employee would prohibit them from:
- Representing (including as a messenger) any private-practice physician with any payer.
- Reviewing or analyzing, for any such physician, any proposed or actual contract or contract term between such physician and any payer.
- Communicating with any independent physician about that physician’s, or any other physician’s, negotiating, contracting, or participating status with any payer.