Antitrust `Safety Zones' for Health Care

Article excerpt

* Even as health-care costs spiraled during the last 10 years, many hospitals and doctors shied away from cooperative ventures - some for competitive reasons, others for fear of antitrust laws. But cooperation is now at the heart of the Clinton administration's reform package.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unveiled detailed guidelines designed to ease fear of antitrust laws, foster collaboration, and cut costs. The administration also committed to answering all health-care antitrust questions within 90 to 120 days.

"These actions are pro-competition, pro-collaboration, and pro-consumer," Hillary Rodham Clinton said, predicting that they will save consumers money.

The guidelines create "antitrust safety zones" in the health-care field by collecting and clarifying rules and regulations that were scattered in letters, speeches, and rulings.

"People in small communities honestly didn't know what the rules were," said Anne Bingaman, head of the Justice Department's antitrust division. "This is an effort to clarify, to state in one simple place what those rules are. …