Bill lets doctors collectively bargain

Pharmaceutical Representative

A bill that would allow doctors to collectively bargain with health plans over the terms of their contracts with them passed the House of Representatives by a 276-136 margin.

A bill that would allow doctors to collectively bargain with health plans over the terms of their contracts with them passed the House of Representatives by a 276-136 margin.

According to the language of the bill, groups of healthcare professionals are entitled to the same treatment under antitrust laws as labor unions and other "bargaining units" are under the National Labor Relations Act. This antitrust exemption is available only as it pertains to negotiations with health plans.

Two amendments were also passed with the bill, one exempting discussions requiring abortion coverage from collective bargaining agreements and another allowing that medical decisions regarding treatment should be made by the physician or healthcare professional and the patient.

"This bill helps doctors help their patients - nothing more, nothing less," said Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA), the bill's sponsor, at the time of the vote. "Medical professionals should be allowed to provide care for their patients as they think best, and today Congress empowered them to do so."

In a statement released by the organization, the American Medical Association said it was pleased with the passage of the bill. "The Campbell-Conyers bill provides a much-needed counterbalance to the growing power of insurers as they merge and use their ever-increasing clout to dictate medical decisions."

Cost increases?

Despite the AMA's assertion that the bill would improve patient care, the insurance industry lobbied heavily against it, claiming the bill would increase healthcare costs. According to the Health Insurance Association of America, the bill would cause health insurance premiums to rise by as much as 13% a year, drive up the number of insured by at least 2.6 million and add up to $95 billion to the nation's healthcare tab.

"The American public should be outraged by the tremendous cost increases this bill would produce in both public and private healthcare programs," said Dean Rosen, senior vice president and general counsel for the Health Insurance Association of America. "Giving physicians this waiver will not improve patient care. It will simply increase physician fees, leading to higher costs for consumers and employers."

The AMA refutes these arguments, however, by pointing to the fact that the bill contains safeguards to ensure that the interests of patients remains at the forefront, including a sunset clause that would limit the duration of the legislation to three years with a requirement that a study of the bill's impact be examined before the bill would be reauthorized by Congress. The bill also forbids any collective cessation of patient care. PR