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Negotiating the negotiating disadvantage

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Posted by tonyb on October 31, 1999 at 05:52:08:


WASHINGTON, Oct 28 (Reuters Health) -- Legislation strongly backed by the
American Medical Association (AMA) that would provide an exemption from
federal antitrust laws to allow doctors to band together to negotiate with
insurance companies has been officially shelved for the rest of the current
Congressional session.

The ``Quality Health Care Coalition Act,'' sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell
(R-CA), had been scheduled this week for a vote by the full House Judiciary
Committee. But on Tuesday, Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) confirmed
that he has agreed to pull the measure from consideration after being asked
to do so by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL).

Like the ``Patients' Bill of Rights,'' the antitrust bill pits the AMA
against the insurance industry. But unlike that measure, on this bill the
Clinton Administration sides with the insurers in opposition to the antitrust
changes. At a Judiciary Committee hearing in June, Assistant Attorney General
Joel Klein testified that the measure ``would allow non-employee, healthcare
professionals collectively to raise their fees to health insurers without
fear of antitrust liability and without regard to competitive market forces
fostered by the antitrust laws.''

Republicans who often side with the insurance industry over doctors also
oppose the measure.

In an interview, Hyde -- who had not previously expressed support for the
Campbell bill -- said he planned to proceed with action next year. ``I'm for
the idea -- maybe not for this particular version,'' he said. ``But I think
there's a problem we need to address in terms of doctors being at a
disadvantage in negotiating with insurance companies,'' he said.

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