At the request of an Illinois state representative, the Federal Trade Commission has cast its eye over HB 5372, an appalling bill that threatens to reduce Illinois residents’ choice of where, when, and how they seek out health services. Well aware of the benefits of convenient clinics, the FTC pulls no punches in its report criticizing this anti-competitive bill.
The “Retail Health Care Facility Permit Act” sentences convenient clinics to “death by a thousand paperclips”: regulations demanding that retail clinics have their own bathrooms (not shared with the host retail store), not be located in stores that sell tobacco or alcohol, and be forbidden from advertising their prices, are the most egregious.
Call me crazy, but surely common sense demands that if health professionals choose to provide service where smokers and drinkers get their fixes, it should be encouraged, not outlawed!
And banning advertising takes away the main reason why these convenient clinics are such a critical part of consumer-directed health care. Maybe clinics’ price transparency will force the physicians to be more creative in how they negotiate payments with health plans, so they can become more transparent themselves. (Actually, I’ve previously expressed concern about convenient clinics joining health plans’ networks, for fear that they will lose the incentive to be price transparent.)
Who’s behind this appalling legislation? The Illinois State Medical Society, that’s who! How self-serving is this legislation? The bill exempts convenient clinics owned by physicians or hospitals from regulation. (Which implies that they recognize it’s a good business opportunity, at least.)
The most galling of the Society’s claims is that the retail clinics will treat patients and not inform their primary care physicians of what’s happening. The hypothetical case cited is a clinic prescribing an antibiotic that conflicts with medications prescribed by the patient’s primary care doc.
Excuse me? It seems to me that the Society should be asking itself: “How are we failing to educate our patients, or co-ordinate their care, such that we are ignorant of treatment they get from other health providers?”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: by opposing the growth of convenient clinics, organized medicine dishonors its profession. HB 5372 deserves a speedy death in the Illinois legislature.