FTC balks at Illinois clinic bill

6/23/2008

WASHINGTON —The convenient care clinic industry is applauding the Federal Trade Commission on its recent approval of staff comments regarding the proposed regulation of retail healthcare facilities in Illinois.

The comments were filed by the staff of the Office of Policy Planning and the Bureaus of Economics, Competition and Consumer Protection with state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-North-brook, regarding HB 5372 and the proposed regulation of retail health clinics within the state.

“The FTC comments continue its advocacy of an open and competitive healthcare marketplace where retail-based clinics can play an increasingly important role in providing consumers in Illinois and other states with easier access to high-quality, affordable health care,” said The Convenient Care Association in a statement.

The FTC’s comments addressed Nekritz’ concerns about provisions in the bill that could be considered anticompetitive and her specific concerns over the bill’s prohibition on the location of a clinic “in any store or place that provides alcohol or tobacco products for sale to the public.”

According to the comments, although Illinois’ initiative to provide for the emergence of this new model of healthcare delivery is to be encouraged, “several of HB 5372’s provisions could harm healthcare competition and the emergence of new clinics, without providing countervailing benefits for Illinois healthcare consumers.”

One such provision in the bill would restrict the ability of third-party payers to negotiate lower co-pays with retail clinics and pass those savings on to healthcare consumers. In addition, the rationale for not allowing a clinic in a retail store that also sells tobacco or alcohol is unclear, according to the FTC, as this restriction could limit the supply of retail clinics and the basic medical services they would provide if retail stores were to decide sales of tobacco and alcohol were more profitable than having a retail health clinic.

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