Michigan Congressmen Introduce Bill Permitting Healthcare Providers to Negotiate Collectively with Health Insurers

By James M. Burns

On January 6, two Michigan Congressmen – Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Representative Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) – introduced the “Quality Health Care Coalition Act of 2015.” The bill (H.R. 105) would permit independent healthcare professionals to engage in joint negotiations with health insurers over fees and other contract terms. Currently, such conduct raises significant antitrust risk – i.e., claims of price fixing – under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

Representative Conyers has introduced similar legislation numerous times in the past. Most recently, last year Representative Conyers partnered with Representative Benishek on similar legislation (H.R. 4077) in the 113th Congress, but that legislation failed to get enacted. When introducing that legislation, Representative Conyers stated that it would “allow physicians to negotiate with insurers on a level playing field,” and Representative Benishek stated that the legislation would “improve patient care and lower healthcare costs.”

Notably, Representative Benishek, who is also a physician, also signed on as a cosponsor to legislation that was recently introduced by Representative Paul Gosar that would repeal the health insurance industry’s antitrust exemption. Representative Gosar was a practicing dentist for many years. That legislation, the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2015” (H.R. 494) has also been viewed – at least by Representatives Conyers, Benishek and Gosar – as a mean of “leveling the playing field” between health insurers and healthcare providers.

Both H.R. 105 and H.R. 494 have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further action. Despite the fact that the legislation has support on both sides of the aisle, the prospects for passage of either bill are unclear at this time.