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A high-impact year for doctors at the high court

Connected coverage — selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.

Posted July 8, 2013

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A year after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, most of the public’s attention was fixed on cases involving same-sex marriage, voting rights and affirmative action — decisions in which health care considerations did not play a central role. But the court still issued some important health system rulings that could affect how physicians provide care for patients and run their practices for years or decades to come.

American Medical News stayed abreast of the Supreme Court decisions that mattered to doctors even if they didn’t prove to be the most high-profile cases of the term. The possible ramifications that several of these rulings have on pay disputes with insurers, patient access to low-cost drugs and the authority of state medical boards will remain firmly in play long after the excitement accompanying the Supreme Court term’s end dies down.

High court defines when physicians can unite against insurers

One doctor’s successful push to have his case against a major insurer for alleged payment abuses handled through class arbitration preserves what physician organizations say is a potent legal tool in such situations. But one result of this victory also might be that health plans become more prescriptive when writing arbitration clauses into contracts, underscoring experts’ recommendations that physicians read contract language carefully.

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Drug pay-for-delay deals declared fair game for FTC lawsuits

Justices did not say that so-called pay-for-delay deals, in which brand-name drug companies compensate generic manufacturers to settle patent litigation, are inherently unlawful. But they did say the Federal Trade Commission has the right to challenge these arrangements in court when the FTC concludes that they are anti-competitive attempts to postpone equivalent drugs from hitting the market — medicines that patients could obtain for much less.

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High court ruling opens hospital mergers to more scrutiny

Physician organizations steered clear of taking sides in a case, decided in February, involving an FTC challenge of a hospital merger. But the groups did express satisfaction that the Supreme Court interpreted the complex state action doctrine at the heart of the case in a way that they say keeps intact the ability of state medical licensing boards to have the final say in determining who may practice medicine and dentistry within states’ borders.

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