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HOSPITAL GROUP CALLS FOR ANTITRUST LAW MODIFICATION

 WASHINGTON, March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Federal antitrust laws impede the progress of national health care reform by preventing cooperation between hospitals and other health care providers, Fredric Entin of the American Hospital Association, told a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
 Entin, AHA general counsel and senior vice president, urged the committee to examine antitrust policy in the context of national health care reform. "A clear conflict exists between federal antitrust enforcement and collaborative solutions to national health policy concerns. As the country contemplates comprehensive health care reform, we need to ensure that innovative ideas for delivering better and more efficient care are not thwarted by antitrust laws," he said.
 Entin said the AHA believes that coordination of health care providers within community-based networks offers the best approach to health care reform. He noted this could not be achieved without modifications of federal antitrust laws.
 Lawmakers who recognize the need for antitrust flexibility were praised. "Several members of Congress have proposed legislation to allow for greater cooperation among hospitals. The Advisory Council on Social Security has made similar recommendations, and reports indicate that President Clinton's task force on national health care reform is considering modifications to antitrust laws," Entin said. Five states have enacted statutes to protect cooperative arrangements from state antitrust laws and to provide state immunity from federal antitrust laws. Similar bills have been introduced in six other states.
 Federal antitrust policy assumes that less hospital competition will add to the cost of health care in a community. In his testimony, Entin pointed to a 1992 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which suggests that both operating and capital costs are lower in markets in which a merger occurred. The study concluded that for merged hospitals, medical and other service costs were reduced 10 percent, while the same costs in non-merged hospitals increased 30 percent.
 Entin also observed that the competition prevalent in the 1980s exacerbated the health care crisis. "Hospitals cannot agree to allocate services among themselves, even if this is seen as beneficial by consumers," he said. "Two hospitals cannot agree that one will purchase an MRI and the other will buy a lithotripter, despite the fact that it could avoid duplication of equipment and services. This would be a violation of the antitrust laws."
 The AHA is encouraging hospitals to work together to deliver more efficient, high quality care to their communities. A poll conducted and published last year by AHA's Hospitals magazine found that more than 44 percent of hospital executives agreed that antitrust laws have slowed or inhibited collaborative efforts.
 The AHA is calling for care in a reformed system to be delivered by community care networks linking hospitals, doctors and other providers who would provide services to enrolled patients for a set fee per year. Networks would remove incentives to duplicate services or deliver unneeded care because providers in the network would share a financial risk.
 The AHA, a not-for-profit organization, services as a national advocate for hospitals and the patients they serve, provides education and information for its members and informs the public about hospitals and health care issues.
 -0- 3/23/93
 /CONTACT: Donna Gaidamak of the American Hospital Association, 312-280-6129/


CO: American Hospital Association ST: District of Columbia IN: HEA SU: LEG

IH-KD -- DC013 -- 8621 03/23/93 11:08 EST
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Date:Mar 23, 1993
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