The federal court in the Northern District of Illinois has granted leave to the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS) to provide more detail as to how Maintenance of Certification (MOC) harms patients. AAPS v. American Board of Medical Specialties, 14-cv-2705-ARW (N.D. Ill. Dec. 13, 2017). Because antitrust laws exist to protect consumers, not competitors, the court is requiring further specificity as to the harm to patients that is allegedly inflicted by MOC.
In addition, the court wonders if the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and other MOC-related organizations have any control over insurance companies to require MOC as a condition of participating in their plans. To the extent anyone is aware of a specific relationship between ABMS and insurance companies, or a mechanism by which ABMS may have some influence with insurers, then please let AAPS know.
AAPS plans to add to its allegations about representations made by ABMS and board-certifying societies that are harmful to physicians who decline to participate in MOC. In the past some board-certifying societies have posted disparaging statements about physicians who do not waste the substantial time and money on remaining current with onerous MOC requirements. For now, the court considers some of these pro-MOC statements to be mere opinion, which is not actionable, but AAPS can submit stronger examples of unfair disparagement with its upcoming amended complaint.
This legal struggle is far from over, and AAPS observes that earlier this year a district court in New Jersey held there is a valid claim for an antitrust violation by how membership in the American Osteopathic Association is required as a condition of maintaining certification by D.O.’s.
At AAPS we will continue to fight against MOC requirements into 2018.