Antitrust laws are glitch in trimming health costs

Presenting another obstacle to President Barack Obama’s recently announced plan to cut health costs by $2 trillion across the next decade, antitrust lawyers say that a coordinated effort involving hospitals, physicians, insurers, and drug makers could leave them running “huge legal risks” regarding anti-trust laws, the New York Times reports.

 

According to the Times article, Robert F. Leibenluft, a former official at the Federal Trade Commission, said, “Any agreement among competitors with regard to prices or price increases — even if they set a maximum — would raise legal concerns.”

 

Already, some leaders of the health care industry who appeared at the White House on May 11 say the president may have overstated their cost-control commitment. Three days after the gathering, hospital executives said that they had agreed to help save $2 trillion by gradually slowing the growth of health spending, but that they did not commit to cutting the growth rate by 1.5 percentage points each year for 10 years.

 

White House officials say even the more limited commitment is significant. Under current law, federal officials predict that health spending will grow an average of 6.2 percent a year, to $4.4 trillion in 2018.

 

Mr. Obama is asking the industry for detailed proposals to control costs. But so far the administration has not offered the industry any relief from antitrust laws and has, in fact, vowed to step up enforcement.

 

(SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, May 28, 2009; The New York Times, http://nytimes.com, accessed June 2, 2009)