• In Re Higgins
  • April 5, 2010 | Authors: Matthew T. Fornataro; Arthur N. Lerner
  • Law Firm: Crowell & Moring LLP - Washington Office
  • The Federal Trade Commission settled charges that Catherine Higgins, executive director of a Colorado physicians' association, circumvented a previous FTC order by negotiating on behalf of the group in her individual capacity rather than as a director.

    In 2008, the Boulder Valley Individual Practice Association (BVIPA), a group of about 365 competing physicians, entered a consent decree prohibiting it from engaging in collective fee negotiations with insurers. Physicians joining BVIPA had been required to sign agreements authorizing it to contract on their behalf with payers. Although Higgins had told insurers that she would pass on their offers, she did not transmit offers she thought were insufficient. Higgins also allegedly threatened to terminate contracts with payers who refused to negotiate with her and told physicians not to negotiate directly with payers.

    Although the 2008 complaint prohibited collective negotiations by BVIPA or its employees, the complaint alleges that Higgins improperly told insurers she was permitted to continue negotiating on behalf of the group in her personal capacity because she was not individually named in the previous consent order. The consent order now names Higgins individually which, according to the FTC, is necessary to "prevent her from orchestrating or implementing price-fixing agreements among the group's competing physicians."