How physicians can avoid legal problems resulting from a practice merger

Physicians who are considering being part of a merger should weigh their risks and take steps to reduce potential legal hurdles. This is usually done before entering the merger due diligence process.

Retain experienced advisers. Doctors should confer with legal counsel and merger-experienced healthcare consultants early on. Such consultants can make sure potential problems are discussed before they arise.

Review the reasons for the merger. Medical groups who are merging should have pro-competitive reasons for merging such as improving quality of care or access to treatment. Health professionals should be sensitive to their market share and realize the larger the group becomes, the more likely it could attract suspicion of anti-competitive behavior.

Discuss how to integrate. Groups that merge sometimes want to maintain independent autonomy by keeping their names or staying in the same location. However, consolidated groups must be able to demonstrate they are working as one unit to prevent government scrutiny.

Obtain relevant data. Before a merger, physicians should obtain data on the number of competitors in their community to better defend against an antitrust challenge. They should be able to present information about why their merger would not harm competition.

Request an opinion. If you are really concerned about antitrust issues, you can ask the Federal Trade Commission to review your plan and issue an advisory opinion. The opinion is not binding, but can offer the group necessary guidance on whether it should move forward.

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