DoJ, FTC differ on antitrust rules for ACOs

The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are butting heads over which agency should get to enforce antitrust laws that affect the formation of accountable care organizations, the New York Times reports.

The revelation was based on letters procured by the Times and written by J. Thomas Rosch, a Republican member of the Federal Trade Commission. He sent the letters to the White House and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The internal debate could slow the formation of ACOs, as long as what's legal remains up in the air.

The agencies currently are writing a joint statement that will give antitrust guidance to healthcare providers creating ACOs.

Which agency ultimately polices accountable care organizations could affect how easy or hard it becomes to develop an ACO. It also could influence whether ACOs live up to their billing as organizations that manage to cut costs while improving care. Many have expressed concerns that if not properly regulated, ACOs could become monopolies that instead drive costs up.

Rosch worried that allowing both the DoJ and FTC to review ACO proposals could lead to a lack of regulatory consistency, because the two agencies would apply different standards.

Hospitals officials consider the DoJ's antitrust division more sympathetic to ACO collaborations and less strict about antitrust rules than the FTC, according to the Times. Wrote Rosch: "The creation and operation of accountable care organizations potentially conflict with the antitrust laws."

To learn more:
- here's the New York Times article

Related Articles:
Barak Richman: ACOs should not involve collaboration of rivals
ACO conundrum: Market consolidation could push prices up
Hospitals need market clout, physician relationships prior to ACO efforts
Berwick hints at what proposed ACO rule might address
ACOs: Revolutionary, or simply an 'HMO in drag'?