Patient safety at stake in case before U.S. Supreme Court

AMA Wire
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A case being evaluated by the nation’s highest court will decide whether state health care licensure boards will retain their authority to regulate their health care professions to shield patients from potentially unlawful practice.
 
The Supreme Court of the United States announced in March that it would hear North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a case previously decided by a federal appeals court that ruled in favor of the FTC’s claim that state licensure boards should be subject to antitrust laws.
 
In an amicus brief filed by the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies, along with the American Dental Association, American Osteopathic Association and 15 other health care organizations, physicians expressed concern that upholding the lower court’s ruling would have “perverse consequences” for patients and the public.
 
The AMA and petitioners fear the threat of antitrust liability may “cause state regulatory authorities to forbear from regulating at all in areas where the need to protect the public from unsound medical practices or unqualified medical practitioners is most critical—lest they and their members be subjected to costly, burdensome and uncertain antitrust litigation,” the brief (AMA login required) said. 
 
“Many highly qualified practitioners who would otherwise be willing to serve on boards will either resign or refuse to accept office lest they face significant personal antitrust exposure,” the brief said. “More importantly, the decisions of state medical and dental boards will be distorted by considerations of federal competition policy to the detriment of public health.”
 
In addition to the health care organizations, four state bars and 22 state attorneys general also expressed their support for the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners in amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Expert lawyers will argue the case at a mock trial during the 2014 AMA Annual Meeting, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. June 9 in Chicago.
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