A recently-appointed Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) official has reportedly responded to criticism that the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is in conflict with federal antitrust law, writing a letter to the New York Times earlier this week to defend the interaction of the legislative areas.
Martin Gaynor of the FTC Bureau of Economics wrote a letter declaring that the FTC does “not stand in the way of providers’ finding new ways of coordinating and improving care” and that “there are many ways for providers to effectively coordinate care that do not require merger or acquisition or cause for competitive concerns.”
Reports say the editorial was in response to an article in the Times earlier this month that covered a federal judge’s decision to back the FTC in ordering the reversal of a merger between Idaho’s largest healthcare provider and its largest physician practice. Supporters of the deal argue that the ACA and healthcare law reform led to the deal, which involved St. Luke’s Health System and Saltzer Meical group.
Following the judge’s ruling, St. Lukes said that the FTC’s lawsuit against the merger conflicted with the ACA’s efforts to increase coordination within the industry, even though the ACA promotes integration to lower costs, the FTC is still obligated to enforce the antitrust laws; so if a deal is anticompetitive, the FTC will still act. There really is no conflict, but the hospitals and physicans are claiming that there is a conflict with one law promoting integration and then the antitrust laws which stand in the way of anticompetitive transactions.