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Feds form task force against monopolies and collusion in health care

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Ramping up efforts against anticompetitive practices in business.

justice gavel stethoscope physician: © Jade - stock.adobe.com

© Jade - stock.adobe.com

Unfair business practices and market domination in health care are the target of a new task force within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Department’s Antitrust Division has formed the new Task Force on Health Care Monopolies and Collusion (HCMC) to guide policy, investigations, and, when warranted, civil and criminal enforcement in health care markets.

The HCMC Task Force will consider issues including concerns about anticompetitive behavior in payer-provider consolidation, serial acquisitions, labor, quality of care, medical billing, information technology, health care data, and more, according to DOJ’s announcement.

“Every year, Americans spend trillions of dollars on health care, money that is increasingly being gobbled up by a small number of payers, providers and dominant intermediaries that have consolidated their way to power in communities across the country,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said in the DOJ’s announcement. Kanter works in DOJ’s Antitrust Division, and he announced the Task Force will be directed by Katrina Rouse, a prosecutor who joined the Antitrust Division in 2011. An alumna of Stanford Law School, rouse clerked for federal judges and has served several positions in DOJ, including as trial attorney in the Healthcare and Consumer Products Section.

New web portal

The move follows last month’s launch of the new web portal, HealthyCompetition.gov, that allows physicians, patients or anyone to report suspicions of unfair and anticompetitive practices. It is a joint project of DOJ, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Seeking public comments

Meanwhile, the feds this month extended the public comment period on the “Request for Information on Consolidation in Health Care Markets.” That was issued in March to collect public comments about transactions that enhance health sector consolidation and may threaten patient health, worker safety, quality of care and affordability, according to DOJ. The public comment period will last until June 5.

As of May 10, there were 3,958 comments received and 1,566 posted online. To comment, go to regulations.gov and look under the “Browse Documents” tab.

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