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Legislation supports collective bargaining for doctors. (Short Takes News at Deadline).

Will the bargaining table be leveled between health plans and physicians? That's what some are hoping will be the result of legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and John Conyers Jr. (D, Mich.).

The Health Care Antitrust Improvements Act of 2002 would let independent physicians bargain together when such negotiations would increase competition, not restrain it.

Under the legislation, physicians would not be permitted to strike. Commenting on the measure, Walker L Ray MD, president of the Medical Association of Georgia, says, "It's not a fair market and insurance companies take advantage of that. Two of us in the doctors' lounge can't even talk about fees. I don't believe the antitrust acts were passed with this in mind."

Physician groups generally favor the legislation. Insurance companies and managed care plans, on the other hand, vigorously oppose it. They contend that it will drive up costs and make health coverage less affordable.

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of the American Association of Health Plans, says, "It is irresponsible to pursue legislation that would raise their costs higher and negatively impact the quality of their care."

Some supporters of physician bargaining groups say that in an effort to eliminate objections to it, the bill has been watered down too much and really won't increase doctors' negotiating leverage very much.

James A. Hawkins is a health care writer based in Aiken, S.C. He can be reached by phone at 803/414-2062 or by e-mail at hirt@jx.netcom.com.
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Author:Hawkins, James A.
Publication:Physician Executive
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:250
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