Compete On Ideas, Not Market Power, FTC Chair Says


FTC Chair Lina Khan says healthy competition among industry players should ensure that consumers have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.

Matthew Weinstock

5 min read

Speaking to a packed crowd of healthcare leaders, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan succinctly articulated her agency’s mission: “The No. 1 goal of competition policy is to make sure that ideas win. You should be able to bring a product to market and compete on ideas, not be victim to the gatekeepers.”

During an insightful conversation with Oliver Wyman’s Sam Glick to kick off the Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit, Khan repeatedly returned to that theme. Whether it is industry consolidation, the emerging role of data and technology companies, or misleading marketing practices, Khan said that the FTC is continually looking for ways to ensure that there is healthy competition among industry players and that consumers have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.

While the FTC’s review of large mergers garners headlines, Khan said attention is also being paid to areas where consolidation impacts more specialized segments, such as dialysis or medical device products. In some cases, she noted, companies acquire smaller players in the market — at a financial threshold that’s below the FTC’s review level — on their way to becoming dominant players. The FTC, along with the Department of Justice, in June proposed changes to premerger information it collects from companies which could provide greater visibility into those smaller deals.

Khan offered a similar note of caution regarding healthcare becoming more of a platform business. Of particular concern is the trend of vertical competition, where companies that are supposed to support or partner with another business end up competing with them. Additionally, she said the FTC is taking a closer look at how healthcare companies and third-party apps manage privacy and consumer health data. She also highlighted the FTC’s work targeting pharmacy benefit managers. Specifically, she said, there’s concern that rebate negotiations between drugmakers and PBMs adversely impact consumers’ ability to access drugs.

As generative AI gains ground, Khan said a growing area of interest for regulators is monitoring false or misleading advertising. The FTC was aggressive in cracking down on deceptive advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic. But generative AI may make it easier for fraudsters to target consumers using more personalized messaging, she warned.

Talking about generative AI more broadly, Khan returned to her theme of open competition, saying that regulators and policymakers need to ensure a legal framework is in place to enable emerging technologies to help consumers, not “further entrench those in power.”

Innovators in action

Ensuring that the healthcare system works for consumers echoed throughout the Innovation Action Showcase. Channeling his inner David Letterman, Oliver Wyman’s Jim Fields interviewed executives from three technology-driven firms on how they are advancing new ways of thinking about personalized care.

Jordan Taggart, Senior Vice President, Payer and Provider Growth, Vida Health, said the virtual-care company is focused on driving behavior change in patients and creating tailored treatment plans. Vida aids patients with cardiometabolic conditions. It takes on full risk and tries to fill in the gaps that members may not be getting from other care management programs. An important element, Taggart explained, is interacting with members on their terms, whether that is a virtual visit, text, peer group, or phone call.

Uno Health is working to ensure seniors aren’t missing out on beneficial state and federal programs, said Anna De Paula Hanika, Co-founder and CEO. She suggested that nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for financial assistance through other programs but are not enrolled, including Medicaid, food stamps, and assistance with prescription drugs. The reasons vary from not knowing they are eligible for a program to not being able to navigate the complex web of enrollment forms. Uno Health works with Medicare Advantage plans to help seniors get enrolled and get the financial assistance they deserve.

Although Flume Health sits behind the scenes, it is also a key player in the burgeoning drive for more personalized care. The company’s approach is to “unlock better health insurance,” said Founder and CEO Cédric Kovacs-Johnson. He defined “better” as insurance that is affordable and easier to navigate. Flume largely improves the data flow between payers and their many vendors. The data integration gives health plans flexibility to meet growing demands from employers to offer more personalized benefit packages. “We are entering an era where healthcare will be more contextualized and personalized,” he said.

  • Matthew Weinstock