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  • PSA: YOUR HELP IS NEEDED

    Filed at 8:55 pm under by dcobranchi

    Skip Oliva and The Center for Voluntary Trade need to raise $2000 in September in order to keep fighting the good fight against the FTC. Here’s the release:

    Citizens for Voluntary Trade is raising money to finance our campaign in defense of physician rights. For the past two years, the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department’s Antitrust Division have repeatedly attacked the right of doctors to form voluntary associations to negotiate with HMOs and other “third-party” health payors that dominate America’s healthcare system. Under the current system, government-sponsored HMOs compel physicians to accept compensation well below market level. Doctors often fail to realize any profit on a patient, or even a group of patients, because of managed care’s compensation scheme. To preserve the financial stability, if not profitability, of their practices, physicians try to form voluntary associations to negotiate compensation terms with third-party payors.

    Here’s an example of the policy in action: Marcia Brauchler is a Denver-based management consultant for two physician groups prosecuted last year by the FTC. The FTC staff also targeted Brauchler, a sole proprietor earning less than $30,000 working from home, claiming she broke the antitrust laws by “coercing” several multi-billion dollar HMOs into negotiating with her physician clients. Brauchler was threatened with criminal sanctions and financial ruin by FTC lawyers if she contested the Commission’s charges so she, like most FTC defendants, settled without a hearing.

    In any other profession, the actions of Brauchler and her physicians would not spark controversy. But the FTC and DOJ, on their own initiative and without any authority from the Constitution or Congress, arbitrarily prohibit physicians from acting in their self-interest as a violation of antitrust law. Since President Bush took office in 2001, his appointees to the FTC and DOJ have sought to eradicate any effort by physicians to collectively negotiate with HMOs. Federal regulators instead seek to force physicians to accept whatever compensation terms the HMOs dictate–terms the government knows are not a reflection of free market negotiations.

    More than a dozen groups, constituting more than 6,000 physicians, have been victimized under the current FTC-DOJ policy. The organizations that are supposed to protect physicians’ rights–i.e., the American Medical Association–have stood by in near-silence while regulators pick off doctors one group at a time. CVT is one of two national organizations dedicated to addressing the antitrust crisis in healthcare (the other is the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism). For the past year, we have fought every effort by the FTC and DOJ to distort the marketplace against doctors. In doing so, we fight not just for the physicians and their economic interests, but for patients as well. Managed care does not benefit the average customer; it provides an inferior service for an inflated price, leaving customers as much at the mercy of HMOs as physicians.

    CVT is committed to beating back the federal antitrust attack on physicians, but we need additional resources to make that happen. Our current budgetary needs are modest by the inflated standards of Washington lobbyists and think tanks, but we require funds nevertheless. During the month of September, CVT needs to raise just $2,000 to maintain and expand its current programming. These funds will help finance the following objectives:

    * Publication of a comprehensive policy paper analyzing the dozen-plus physician cases prosecuted by the FTC and DOJ since 2001;

    * Litigation against the DOJ and FTC to force disclosure of information on recent physician cases;

    * Assisting congressional efforts to hold hearings on the FTC and DOJ’s antitrust activities; and

    * Creation of an “early warning system” to seek out and assist physician groups before they are targeted by federal regulators.

    The importance of this issue cannot be overstated. Several physician groups have been prosecuted under the antitrust laws for not accepting bankruptcy over negotiating with HMOs. With recent congressional efforts to expand the government’s intervention in the healthcare market to prescription drugs, it is essential to stop the FTC and DOJ before they are given another excuse to attack physicians. No doctor is safe under the current policy.

    Despite the dire circumstances, CVT is confident that defenders of individual rights and capitalism can triumph in this battle. The FTC-DOJ anti-physician policy has never been tested in court, and based on the FTC’s past antitrust defeats, we are confident that once these policies are placed under the appropriate amount of scrutiny, the physicians will prevail. But that can’t happen unless CVT has the resources it needs to take on the federal antitrust machine.

    CVT’s work, however, is not limited to protecting doctors. Federal regulators use antitrust to attack the rights of every American, and CVT’s planned programming will address the following issues:

    * First Amendment — the FTC and DOJ use antitrust to restrict the free speech and assembly rights of individuals and businesses. For example, the DOJ recently forced Village Voice Media and NT Media to sell publishing assets to third parties (chosen by the government) to prevent alleged monopolization of the “alternative newsweekly” market. The DOJ argued the need for diverse outlets overruled the First Amendment rights of publishers to control their product.

    * Technology mergers — the FTC routinely ignores federal law that exempts mergers under a certain value from antitrust review. To get around the law, the FTC instead forces companies to undo mergers after the fact, sometimes years after the fact. The technology industry has come under particular attack using this illegal tactic. Small technology firms have no ability to know before entering a merger whether their actions will be deemed illegal by FTC lawyers.

    * Intellectual property — the FTC uses antitrust to undermine the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical and technology firms. In one pending case, the FTC is attempting to strip Rambus, Inc., of nearly $4 billion worth of intellectual property despite the fact a federal appeals court recently upheld as legal the same conduct the FTC claims was illegal. The FTC, in effect, is doing an end-run around the legitimate judicial system by hauling Rambus before an FTC-controlled administrative court.

    CVT’s work on all of these issues is essential. We need your financial and volunteer assistance through any of the following means:

    * A contribution of $20, $50, or $100; CVT accepts checks and money orders via mail or credit card donations via PayPal (go here and click the PayPal logo in the top right corner).

    * Signup for CVT’s e-mail list to remain apprised of pending activities and the latest antitrust threats to America’s businesses.

    * Volunteer to assist CVT with legal research, website development, public relations, or fundraising.

    Any and all assistance is greatly appreciated.

    Skip Oliva
    President, Citizens for Voluntary Trade
    Senior Fellow, Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

    One Response to “PSA: YOUR HELP IS NEEDED”


    Comment by
    Stephanie Herman
    August 27th, 2003
    at 11:44 pm

    I would be proud & happy to send a donation from Cost Benefit Jr. ™! Thanks for bringing this to our attention.