Organized medicine has battled the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) since the 1970s over enforcement of the antitrust laws. Physicians' discontent stems from the belief that federal policy allows managed care organizations to achieve dominance in health care markets just as it discourages physicians from taking collective action to protect their interests. This article examines two important efforts by organized medicine over a twenty-year interval to alter federal antitrust policy. In 1982, physicians and other professionals sought a special exemption from FTC jurisdiction; beginning in 1998, physicians promoted legislation that would exempt independent practitioners from the antitrust laws for collective bargaining purposes. Both initiatives passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. This article uses an advocacy coalition framework to reinterpret the events and to assess the reasons for legislative failure. The evidence suggests that in both instances, although twenty years apart, consumer groups and federal bureaucrats determined the outcome in favor of corporate medicine.

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