NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Doctors Gain Bargaining Rights

June 24, 1999

The American Medical Association has decided to help doctors unionize, and Congress held hearings this week on Rep.Tom Campbell's (R-Calif.) bill, which would extend collective bargaining rights to physicians nationwide. Meanwhile, last weekend Gov. George W. Bush signed legislation allowing physicians in Texas to collectively negotiate with managed care companies.

"[The new law] provides a check and balance to make sure that HMOs are not able to unfairly use their market power to dictate the quality of patient care," said Bush spokesman Linda Edwards.

  • Federal antitrust laws classify fee negotiations by independent physicians as a form of price-fixing, and doctors found guilty of anticompetitive acts can be sentenced to three years in prison and forced to pay a $350,000 fine.
  • The Texas law gives doctors an exemption from federal law by placing such negotiations under state supervision -- but insurers can refuse to bargain with negotiating units formed by doctors.
  • The Pennsylvania Medical Society wants to introduce legislation by this fall modeled after Texas' law.

The AMA and 47 state medical societies support the federal law, which would grant all health care professionals the right to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.

Source: Charles Ornstein, "Bush Signs Physician Bargaining Bill," Dallas Morning News, June 21, 1999.


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