ACOs can calm antitrust worries with unique offerings, officials say

Accountable care organizations can quell antitrust worries by providing new services to patients that were previously unavailable in the market, government officials advised this week.

While the federal government understands the benefits that ACOs bring, it's also aware of the potential for antitrust harm the ACOs pose when they reduce competition in a market, said Alexis James Gilman of the Federal Trade Commision. He spoke at the American Bar Association's Washington Health Law Summit on Monday.

Both Gilman and Peter Mucchetti of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division agreed that an ACO isn't likely to cause antitrust harm if it's improving access to care and bringing new products to the market, Bloomberg BNA reported.

“One of the big things when reviewing an ACO is whether the payers like it,” Mucchetti said.

“Red flags” that an ACO was treading into anticompetitive territory is whether the organization uses steering, tying or exclusive arrangements to block access for potential competition, Gilman said. He added that ACOs that rely on certificates of need or public advantage laws to show the anticompetitive aspects of the organization should also be watched for.

“We know that there are hundreds of ACOs out there, but the FTC has only received two requests for guidance and has taken no enforcement actions against ACOs,” Gilman said.