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DOJ Antitrust Division Launches New Task Force on Health Care Monopolies and Collusion

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division has intensified its scrutiny of healthcare platforms that integrate doctors with insurers, data, and other assets. Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter described this trend as an “alarming” concentration of resources.

In a significant move, the DOJ announced the establishment of the Task Force on Health Care Monopolies and Collusion. Kanter emphasized during a Washington Post Live event that the Antitrust Division is enhancing its healthcare enforcement efforts as part of the Biden administration’s comprehensive approach to addressing the dynamic changes in healthcare delivery and payment structures driven by technological and market forces.

Kanter highlighted the rapid acquisition of healthcare providers by insurance companies and the increasing role of algorithms in healthcare delivery and pricing, referring to these integrated entities as “multisided giants” forming a “coordinated stack” across different industry sectors. This concentration of data and resources is cited as a main driver of rising healthcare costs, lower quality of care, and industry “choke-points.”

The new task force aims to ensure that the Antitrust Division is well-equipped to address competition issues in the modern healthcare economy. It will provide a robust policy voice and leverage all necessary tools to tackle these challenges. The task force will guide the Antitrust Division’s approach to healthcare policy and strategy, enabling effective advocacy, investigations, and enforcement actions in both civil and criminal contexts.

Kanter pointed out that Americans spend trillions annually on healthcare, with a growing share of this expenditure controlled by a few dominant payers, providers, and intermediaries. This consolidation, he noted, has significant implications for competition and consumer costs.

The DOJ outlined the task force’s objectives, which include addressing competition concerns from patients, healthcare professionals, businesses, and entrepreneurs. These concerns cover payer-provider consolidation, serial acquisitions, labor and quality of care, medical billing, healthcare IT services, and the access to and misuse of healthcare data. The HCMC will bring together civil and criminal prosecutors, economists, industry experts, technologists, data scientists, investigators, and policy advisors from various division sectors to address antitrust issues in healthcare markets.

Leading the task force will be Katrina Rouse, a seasoned antitrust prosecutor who joined the division in 2011. Rouse, who has extensive experience in the defense, industrials, aerospace, healthcare, and consumer products sectors, will also serve as the division’s deputy director of civil enforcement and special counsel for healthcare.

Beyond healthcare, Kanter also addressed broader issues, such as the risks monopolies pose to cybersecurity. He warned that consolidated entities are “sitting ducks” for bad actors, as they possess vast, centralized reams of sensitive data. Further, Kanter raised the antitrust implications of AI technology, stressing the need to monitor consolidation at all levels of AI development, including data sets and chips, and its application, which could facilitate anticompetitive practices.

The formation of the HCMC Task Force is a logical next step for a Biden Administration that has prioritized targeting anticompetitive practices in the broader market, with a special focus on reducing healthcare costs. Industry participants should expect a new wave of enforcement actions in this area as the newly-formed HCMC seeks to exert influence.

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