Earlier this week, AMA officials testified in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that consolidation in the health insurance industry has curtailed physician's abilities to negotiate with insurers. "We have watched with growing concern as large health plans pursue aggressive acquisition strategies to assume dominant positions in their markets," the association commented. Officials also allege that the lack of competition between insurers inflates patients' premiums. The AMA urged Congress to investigate whether insurers are practicing anticompetitive activities that negatively affect both doctors and patients.
In addition, the AMA made another recommendation. They want the Department of Justice to allow physicians to practice collective bargaining, saying that it will give them more power to negotiate with large insurers. Collective bargaining, the AMA claims, gives physicians an even playing field with health plans. Antitrust laws, they say, should apply to health plans, not just physicians. Just recently, the FTC announced that two Kansas physicians groups--New Century Health Quality Alliance and Prime Care of Northeast Kansas--agreed to settle with the agency on antitrust accusations. The groups had teamed up to negotiate higher reimbursement rates with health insurers. A spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans disputed the AMA's testimony and said that the health insurance market is very competitive.