'This is long overdue': Physicians react to the FTCs' noncompete ban 

After the Federal Trade Commission voted to ban noncompetes for most healthcare workers, eight healthcare leaders and physicians joined Becker's to react to the agency's move. 

Editor's note: Responses were edited lightly for clarity and brevity. 

Eric Anderson, MD. Interventional Pain Management Physician (Lewisville, Texas): I am on the side against banning noncompetes, especially how the current one is written.  My argument as a small business owner is that noncompetes serve companies by protecting our confidential internal information and encourages us to invest in our workforce, knowing our employees won’t just pack up and leave.

Emily Ast. Attorney and Founder of Ast Physician Contracts (New York City): I support the FTC's decision to ban noncompetes for two main reasons. First, I believe that employers can and should motivate physicians to stay by the terms of employment (financial and otherwise), work environment and culture, without using restrictions that make it difficult to leave. While employers have a right to protect their business interests, this can be accomplished through narrowly tailored non-solicitation and/or confidentiality provisions without the need for noncompetes. Second, as it relates to physicians specifically, it is important that patients have access to physicians close to their residence and a choice among providers. As consolidation continues to happen in healthcare, patients will have fewer choices if physicians are forced to move outside of an entire area in order to change jobs. 

Ernest Braxton, MD. Spine and Neurological Surgery Specialist at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery (Vail, Colo.): Banning noncompete clauses for physicians can significantly enhance community benefit. Such clauses restrict doctors from practicing within a certain radius of their former workplace for a specified period, hindering patients' access to healthcare services. By eliminating these constraints, physicians can freely relocate to areas with underserved populations, improving medical access and quality of care. This decision fosters competition among healthcare providers, encouraging innovation and efficiency while safeguarding patients' right to choose their preferred healthcare provider. Ultimately, abolishing noncompete clauses empowers physicians to serve where they are needed most, promoting a healthier and more equitable society.

Daniel Larose. CEO of Advanced Surgery Center (Omaha, Neb.): I do not support this new rule. Small private practices are having difficulties competing with big hospital systems that provide guaranteed subsidized salaries. Recruiting and hiring and training a new doctor is expensive and time consuming, and if a new doctor can easily be recruited by a hospital system that offers above-market salaries and then competes with you, it is another threat to the survival of private orthopedic practice, especially in smaller markets.

Bert Mandelbaum, MD. Sports Medicine Surgeon in Santa Monica, Calif.: Overall, as someone that believes in free market capitalism, I am in favor of the decision to ban noncompete agreements. At the moment, post-COVID-19, we are seeing extremely low unemployment and jobs are filled. These market forces will allow a more refined and specific reset.

Thomas Pliura, MD. Physician and Attorney in Le Roy, Ill. Having reviewed many hundreds of physician employment agreements, 95% of employed physicians are forced to accept noncompete provisions or they will not get a job. The profession of medicine has been hijacked by venture capitalists and billion-dollar "not-for-profit" health systems that have swallowed up all the patients. 

When a physician signs a noncompete, it is the patients who suffer. Noncompete clauses create artificial shortages in the medical profession. Noncompetes create artificial barriers to entry in the market, the end-consumer suffers; noncompetes drive up the cost of healthcare and create artificial shortages of specific providers. Opponents of a ban on noncompetes always argue physicians have a choice whether to sign a noncompete or not. In reality, this is the appearance of choice, but with no real choice at all. Many of these health systems have become so large they monopolize markets with employed providers, bound by noncompete clauses. This results in higher healthcare costs for the public. The healthcare profession needs free market competition to drive down prices and improve quality. 

Matthew Searles. Partner at Merritt Healthcare Advisors. Significant thought needs to be given to how we protect trade secrets and employer property. This [rule] can't be a carte blanche to steal proprietary information from employers, but do I support mobility and opportunities for the employed workforce. If we are being honest with one another, the playing field has been, and will continue to be, heavily tilted to the employers.

Richard White, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at Fitzgibbon Hospital (Marshall, Mo.) I do support the FTC's decision to ban noncompetes. This is long overdue. It is a strain on the system and has unfairly put added pressures on health professionals without benefit to the community.

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