AAPS Has Leave to Amend ABMS Anti-Trust Suit-Wes
The federal court in the Northern District of Illinois has granted leave to AAPS to provide more detail as to how Maintenance of Certification (MOC®) harms patients in AAPS v. American Board of Medical Specialties, 14-cv-2705-ARW (N.D. Ill. Dec. 13, 2017). Because antitrust laws exist to protect consumers, not competitors, the court is requiring further specificity as to the harm to patients that is allegedly inflicted by MOC®.
In addition, the court wonders whether the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and other MOC-related organizations have any control over insurance companies to require MOC® as a condition of participating in their plans. To the extent anyone is aware of a specific relationship between ABMS and insurance companies, or a mechanism by which ABMS may have some influence with insurers, then please let AAPS know.*
AAPS plans to add to its allegations ways in which representations made by ABMS and board-certifying societies harm physicians who decline to participate in MOC®. (emphasis mine) In the past some board-certifying societies have posted disparaging statements about physicians who do not waste the substantial time and money on remaining current with onerous MOC® requirements. For now, the court considers some of these pro-MOC® statements to be mere opinion, which is not actionable, but AAPS can submit stronger examples of unfair disparagement with its upcoming amended complaint.
This legal struggle is far from over, and AAPS observes that earlier this year a district court in New Jersey held there is a valid claim for an antitrust violation by how membership in the American Osteopathic Association is required as a condition of maintaining certification by D.O.s.
The AAPS case was initially filed in New Jersey in 2013 (https://tinyurl.com/ycndp3rx), and the courts have not acted until now, except to grant an ABMS motion to change the venue to Chicago. In dismissing the case as pled, the Court focused on the “voluntary” nature of MOC®. It had not been demonstrated that ABMS has sufficient market power to restrain trade, decrease output, or raise prices. “Antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors” (https://tinyurl.com/yapc4no5). Patients can supposedly find another doctor, or another hospital — somewhere.
* AAPS should look no further than Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan's disenrollment of Meg Edison, MD from several insurance panels and then sending her patients letters about the disenrollment solely on the basis of her failing to pay her Maintenanance of Certification fee. Their near instantaneous electronic collusion with an ABMS member board (American Board of Pediatrics) is damning and is facilitated by the for-profit wholly-owned subsidiary of ABMS, ABMS Solutions, LLC (domiciled in Atlanta, GA) selling Board certification status to third parties. AAPS should also be interested that Margaret O'Kane of the National Committee on Quality Assurance (that sets credentialing standards for insurers) is also a public member of the ABMS Board of Directors.