House passes bill letting doctors collectively negotiate

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The House passed a bill Saturday that would let doctors band together to negotiate with insurance companies.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said the measure would help level the playing field between doctors and big insurance companies.

But state and federal regulators said Senate Bill 37 could drive up prices for health care.

Antitrust laws designed to foster competition and prevent price-fixing prohibit doctors from getting together to negotiate with insurance companies. States can make an exception to those laws if they set up an adequate state oversight process.

Kelly has said the Legislature needs to do that for Alaska doctors, who are on uneven footing going up against big insurance companies.

The bill that passed the House on Saturday would not let doctors discuss fees, although they could negotiate on quality of care and other non-fee contract issues.

That's a major difference from the version of the bill that passed the Senate last year.

Because the House and Senate versions are different, the Senate will have to decide whether to accept the House changes.

If not, a conference committee will work out the differences.

Under either version of the bill, the Attorney General's office would have some oversight over the negotiations between doctors and insurers.

The Federal Trade Commission, however, has said the bill provides the attorney general's office with too little information and too little time to review proposed contracts.

The House approved the measure 29-10.

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