Federal agencies open online portal for reporting anticompetitive practices in healthcare

Federal agencies want to hear from the public about monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior within the healthcare industry.

Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled HealthyCompetition.gov, an online portal where anyone can submit a healthcare competition complaint for potential investigation.

These submissions, the agencies said, can help the agencies ensure healthcare organizations provide quality care and pay their employees a fair wage.

“All too often, we hear how unfair methods of competition and monopolistic practices may be depriving Americans of access to affordable, high-quality healthcare,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a release. “This joint initiative between, FTC, DOJ and HHS will provide a crucial channel for the agencies to hear from the public, bolstering our work to check illegal business practices that harm consumers and workers alike.”

The interagency collaboration comes months after the White House instructed the three agencies to begin working more closely on addressing “corporate greed in healthcare.” Alongside a joint request for information, targeted leadership appointments and widely publicized enforcement actions, the agencies have cooperated on public workshops to better understand how certain players, such as private equity firms, are leveraging their scale and capital to secure profits at the healthcare system’s expense.

“The Biden-Harris Administration and HHS know it is our responsibility to stop monopolistic, anti-competitive practices that undermine the delivery of health care to Americans,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the announcement. “The information provided by the public will help to root out these behaviors.”

Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, said the new “one-stop shop to report potential violations … will allow the agencies to collaborate early and often.”

The behaviors they’re seeking are those running afoul of the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act or the Robinson-Patman Act as well as other authorities granted to HHS, according to the portal’s website.

In practice, these could be cases in which competing healthcare companies collude or price fix, include clauses in their contracts with other parties that limit competition, limit employment options through no-poach or no-solicitation agreements or roll up numerous smaller entities to reduce competition within a market, the agencies wrote. Other harmful practices of interest could include policies and contracts that limit price transparency or the acquisition and use of large quantities of data, the agencies wrote.

Complaints received through the portal will receive a preliminary review by FTC and DOJ Antitrust Division staff, per the announcement. Complaints of “sufficient concern” will be funneled to the most appropriate of the three agencies and “may lead to the opening of a formal investigation,” they said.

The government said it will protect submitter confidentiality “to the fullest extend possible under the law,” and will support other relevant whistleblower protections. Submitters are instructed not to include sensitive personal information in their comments but may choose to leave contact information in case the agencies opt to seek more information.