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House Republicans Block Physician Negotiating Bill

House Republicans Block Physician Negotiating Bill

The House Rules Committee took the somewhat unusual step of blocking a key physician-backed bill from coming to the House floor for a vote. Late at night on May 24, the Committee voted to keep H.R. 1304 from coming to a vote on the House floor. H.R. 1304 is the bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA) that would allow independent, private practice physicians in a given area to negotiate collectively with the managed care plans that operate in the area. This practice is currently illegal under antitrust laws. The House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1304 overwhelmingly by a vote of 26-2. After that committee vote, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) promised Campbell that H.R. 1304 would soon come up for a House floor vote. But the health insurance industry strongly opposes the bill, and it apparently was able to get the ear of members of the House Rules Committee, who are responsible for clearing bills for House floor votes. The American Medical Association (AMA), which has led a coalition of physician groups, was outraged by the Rules Committee action. D. Ted Lewers, md, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, says, “It is hard to imagine a more outrageous subversion of the American democratic process. How can a Rules Committee—selected by the Speaker of the House—pull from floor consideration a bill that has the support of more than a majority of the House of Representatives?”

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