Banning noncompete contracts for medical staff riles hospitals
Published in Business News
Dr. Jacqui O’Kane took a job with a hospital in southern Georgia in 2020, as the lone doctor in a primary care clinic in a small town that’s a medically underserved area. She soon attracted nearly 3,000 patients.
But she said the hospital pressed her to take more new patients, so she had to work nights and weekends — not ideal for the mother of two young daughters. She thought about opening her own practice in town, which would give her more control over her schedule.
The problem was that her three-year contract included a noncompete clause barring her from practicing within 50 miles of the hospital for two years after it ended.
So, she has decided to join a practice in South Carolina. That means she and her husband will sell their house, move hundreds of miles, and enroll their children in a new school.
“It sucks,” she said. “I know my patients very well, and I feel like I’m being forced to abandon them. But I can’t stay in this job because it’s unhealthy for me to work this much.”
In January, the Federal Trade Commission proposed to end predicaments like O’Kane’s by prohibiting noncompete clauses in employment contracts. “The freedom to change jobs is core to economic liberty and to a competitive, thriving economy,” said Lina Khan, the FTC chairperson.
The proposed rule would prohibit employment contract provisions that block employees or contractors from working for a competing employer when they move on, or from starting a competing business. Such contracts typically bar people from working within a certain geographic area for a period after the job ends.
The FTC estimates that 30 million workers are bound by noncompete clauses. It says ending those provisions would boost economic competition, reduce prices, and increase workers’ earnings overall by up to $296 billion a year.
Eliminating noncompete contracts would allow doctors to practice wherever their services are needed, which would improve patients’ access to care. They say it would free them to speak out about unsafe conditions for patients, since they wouldn’t have to worry about getting fired and not being able to continue working in their community.
But the FTC’s proposal faces resistance from employers in all industries, including hospitals and private equity-backed medical groups that employ thousands of physicians, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals.
©2023 Kaiser Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.