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Healthcare Deregulation Best for Competition, Says Federal Trade Commissioner

Elijah Labby

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Photo of Commissioner Christine Wilson by the FTC used with permission

May 18, 2020 — Deregulation of healthcare will increase competition and personal choice, said Federal Trade Commissioner Christine S. Wilson in a Monday webinar.

The webinar, hosted by the Federalist Society and moderated by Svetlana Gans, vice president associate general counsel of NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, covered hot topics such as privacy and antitrust.

Wilson said that although she would not go into details of the FTC’s unreleased regulation reform plans, she believed that deregulation is possible and in many cases desirable.

“I would love to see states embrace the mindset of washing away some of these restrictive frameworks that would allow consumers to exercise more choice and to enjoy more competition in the healthcare arena,” she said.

Telehealth has seen a rise during the coronavirus pandemic that many experts are predicting will not end after the virus is controlled. Telemedicine allows for increased access to mental health resources as well as monitoring for patients with non-critical health issues.

Dr. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that unfortunately, there is a “thicket of state laws and regulations that make telemedicine very complex … to implement broadly.”

Wilson said that the FTC would do its best to cut back on such regulations for telehealth.

“We will continue to call out state laws that we believe will inhibit competition without providing concomitant benefits to consumers,” she said.

Gans and Wilson also discussed privacy issues that the FTC is attempting to tackle.

The coronavirus has birthed a new demand for contact tracing, which would monitor an individual’s contact with infected persons through GPS and shared tracking applications. Several large companies, such as Apple and Google, have introduced their own contact tracing apps that could slow the spread of the virus, but at a potentially high cost to individual privacy.

“Consumers did not provide informed consent with respect to the use of their data in a pandemic,” Wilson said. “No one could have imagined that that was going to arise ... I would like to see Congress say, ‘businesses need to be accountable in the way that they handle consumers’ data and information.’”

Wilson added that the FTC needed federal privacy legislation and more funding to enforce it, as well as to close common carrier privacy loopholes.

“Just because a company is a common carrier doesn’t mean it should be exempt from the same privacy legislation that their competitors are subjected to,” she said.

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