A case before the U.S. Supreme Court on how antitrust laws are enforced has the potential to affect health care in a way that would harm patient care and interfere with a physician's duty to a patient to provide the best medical care.

Standing for physicians

The AMA Litigation Center is the strongest voice for America's medical profession in legal proceedings across the country.

The case before the nation's highest court, State of Ohio et al. v. American Express Company et al., involves how a credit card company operates, although this may seem far removed from the practice of medicine, the underlying issue the justices are considering is how federal antitrust laws are applied. Their ruling could upend how the courts determine whether anti-steering provisions are violated under the Sherman Act.

If the nation's highest court upholds a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, it would mean dominant health insurers or dominant hospital systems could create contracts that include anti-referral rules that prohibit physicians from referring patients to out-of-network specialists for innovative or medically-necessary tests that would provide the patient with the best care. So argues an amicus brief the Litigation Center for the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies and the Ohio State Medical Association filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Material interference with physicians' medical judgments threatens physician autonomy, damages the doctor-patient relationship, decreases medical innovation and lowers the overall quality of patient care," the Litigation Center brief states. "The antitrust laws have historically played an instrumental role in preventing such outcomes. This court should ensure that antitrust law's vital role in health care continues."

Read more at AMA Wire.

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