Restraint of trade is a big legal theme in professional regulation this year. Two months after a Supreme Court’s ruling undercut boards’ antitrust immunity (North Carolina Dental Board v. FTC), the Texas company Teledoc sued the state medical board over new rules restricting “telemedicine.”
One rule in particular—which requires physicians to meet patients face-to-face before being allowed to treat them remotely—is a violation of antitrust laws, Teladoc says. Teladoc reasons that barring use of technology that allows remote patient-doctor visits would infringe upon the company’s ability to compete.
The Texas Medical Board has subsequently sent out a press release in response to the lawsuit, characterizing the new rules not as restrictive for telemedicine, but “representing the best balance of convenience and safety by ensuring quality healthcare for the citizens of Texas.”
The press release went on to assert that the new rules only prohibit a physician seeking to treat a completely unknown patient via telemedicine.
But Teladoc claims the board’s new rules were instigated because the board saw Teladoc emerging as a competitive threat.
If Teladoc’s allegations were held valid, then the board could face antitrust actions. In its recent ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the dental board was not immune from antitrust laws since the board was not being actively supervised by the state. The majority of the board also consisted of active dentists, which inherently created a competitive conflict of interest, according to the Supreme Court.
Teladoc contends that the same lack of oversight and anti-competitive behavior is occurring with the Texas Medical Board. Twelve out of the 19 Texas Medical Board members are practicing doctors.
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