Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Antitrust News: CAC Argues Denying Free Market Rights of Doctors Hurts Medicine

Today the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism (CAC) filed public comments on the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) consent order in its case against Anesthesia Service Medical Group, Inc. (ASMG), and Grossmont Anesthesia Services Medical Group, Inc. (GAS), two medical groups which provide professional anesthesia services in San Diego County, California. The FTC charges ASMG and GAS with collectively negotiating on behalf of physicians in violation of the FTC Act with Grossmont Hospital, a La Mesa, California, hospital that extends staff privileges to ASMG and GAS members. The FTC considers any physician collective bargaining to be illegal despite the lack of congressional or constitutional authorization for such a position.

"This case is a classic so-called "price fixing" case," say Nicholas Provenzo, CAC Chairman. "The FTC’s myopic fixation on prices derives from its self-proclaimed mission to protect “consumers” from harm. By emphasizing consumer interests over all others, the Commission has subscribed to the belief that demand, not supply, drives the marketplace, and that a consumer’s every wish must be fulfilled as a matter of right."

"When those wishes cannot be fulfilled on terms of the consumer’s choosing, the FTC axiomatically concludes that it must be the fault of some producer engaging in “unfair” competition," says Provenzo. "The case against ASMG and GAS derives from this flawed premise, and if carried to its logical conclusion, the FTC’s thinking will result in the destruction of the medical profession."

"By attacking the basic rights of physicians to negotiate in their self-interest and treating the services physicians provide their patients as if they were an unquestioned right, the FTC is weakening the basic means of supplying physicians to the marketplace," says CAC Senior Fellow Sean Oliva. "If physicians are unable to profit in the market, they will simply withdraw their services, leaving hospitals without competent staff and patients without adequate care. While Grossmont Hospital may avoid a short-term rise in the costs of obtaining anesthesiologists by running to the FTC to punish ASMG and GAS, the Commission’s intervention will further erode the ability of physicians to pursue their economic self-interest, thus removing a key incentive in retaining and expanding the supply of available physicians."

A copy of the CAC comment letter in PDF format can be downloaded at: http://www.capitalismcenter.org/Campaigns/Antitrust/CAC_Comments_San_Diego.pdf

No comments: