Doctors' Petition Rejected Labor Board Says N.J. Physicians Can't Unionize
The National Labor Relations Board yesterday rejected the petition of several hundred New Jersey physicians, saying they were not employees of an HMO, in the nation's latest test of the right of private practice doctors to unionize.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 56, which is seeking to represent more than 650 New Jersey doctors in collective bargaining vs. AmeriHealth Inc., had not yet decided whether it would appeal the decision. However, the union may turn its efforts toward federal legislation that would give physicians the right to organize.
"We believe that our efforts along with the other unions have brought this to a head," said Anthony Cinaglia, president of the Pennsauken-based union. "We believe there's been a moral victory."
The case has been watched around the country as a growing number of doctors, frustrated by increasing control over their practices by health maintenance organizations, have attempted to unionize.
While there are other physician unions, those involve doctors employed directly by hospitals or clinics. The doctors in this case all treat patients of AmeriHealth.
Even if they are successful, it may not be an answer to their problems, which revolve around stepped-up HMO control over their practices, said Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton University health economist.
"They think they can as a union sit there and shove a unionized fee scale down the throat of the insurer," said Reinhardt. He added that it would never be effective because insurance carriers in turn would band together to negotiate with the doctors. …