Wednesday, May 23, 2012
This Week's News
This Week's News
AMA challenges FTC antitrust actions against state licensing boards
In a brief filed May 17 in a federal appeals court, the AMA is contesting the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) interference with the authority of state regulatory boards to oversee professional licensure, patient safety and the practice of medicine.
Prepared by the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies, the brief disputes an antitrust enforcement action the FTC brought against a North Carolina licensing board as it attempted to fulfill its statutory mandate to regulate public health and safety.
"Safeguarding public health and patient safety are the primary purposes of the state statutes authorizing licensing boards to regulate health care professionals," AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, said. "It is crucial that licensing boards carry out the responsibilities assigned to them by state legislatures without being intimidated by federal overreach from the FTC."
In the brief, the AMA argues that state licensing boards' decisions are exempt from federal antitrust challenges under the "state action doctrine" created by the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief contends that clinical expertise should be the basis for decisions about health care licensing and matters of public safety, which fall outside the FTC's scope of knowledge. The AMA maintains that such judgments are rightfully made by state boards and legislatures and should continue to include input from local health care professionals.
In related news, the FTC has sent letters to legislators and licensing boards in multiple states over this legislative session, implying that there are antitrust issues with state laws and regulations that restrict certain health care services and procedures to practitioners with a particular health care license.
In some of these letters, the FTC has made what are essentially clinical judgments on such complex medical issues as the relative qualifications of categories of health care professionals to perform specific medical procedures. The AMA has expressed strong objections to the FTC rendering clinical opinions on matters that are the purview of medical boards and states.