Symposium: ABJS Carl T. Brighton Workshop on Health Policy Issues in Orthopaedic Surgery

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 467, Issue 11, pp 3017-3028

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Physician Collective Bargaining

  • Anthony Hunter SchiffAffiliated withUCLA School of Public HealthSchiff & Bernstein, APC Email author 


Current antitrust enforcement policy unduly restricts physician collaboration, especially among small physician practices. Among other matters, current enforcement policy has hindered the ability of physicians to implement efficient healthcare delivery innovations, such as the acquisition and implementation of health information technology (HIT). Furthermore, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have unevenly enforced the antitrust laws, thereby fostering an increasingly severe imbalance in the healthcare market in which dominant health insurers enjoy the benefit of largely unfettered consolidation at the cost of both consumers and providers. This article traces the history of antitrust enforcement in healthcare, describe the current marketplace, and suggest the problems that must be addressed to restore balance to the healthcare market and help to ensure an innovative and efficient healthcare system capable of meeting the demands of the 21st century. Specifically, the writer explains how innovative physician collaborations have been improperly stifled by the policies of the federal antitrust enforcement agencies, and recommend that these policies be relaxed to permit physicians more latitude to bargain collectively with health insurers in conjunction with procompetitive clinical integration efforts. The article also explains how the unbridled consolidation of the health insurance industry has resulted in higher premiums to consumers and lower compensation to physicians, and recommends that further consolidation be prohibited. Finally, the writer discusses how health insurers with market power are improperly undermining the physician-patient relationship, and recommend federal antitrust enforcement agencies take appropriate steps to protect patients and their physicians from this anticompetitive conduct. The article also suggests such steps will require changes in three areas: (1) health insurers must be prohibited from engaging in anticompetitive activity; (2) the continuing improper consolidation of the health insurance industry must be curtailed; and (3) the physician community must be permitted to undertake the collaborative activity necessary for the establishment of a transparent, coordinated, and efficient delivery system.