The Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care and United Allergy Services hit several coalitions of board-certified allergists, including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, with a lawsuit in Texas federal court Monday, alleging anti-competitive practices.
The AAAPC and UAS allege that AAAAI, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and specific board members and officers within each organization encouraged insurers and managed care organizations to deny or limit reimbursement to physicians who are not board-certified allergists, including physicians whose practices are supported by UAS.
The suit also alleges that the defendants intimidated primary care physicians from practicing allergy care within their scope of practice, coercing and persuading allergist colleagues to boycott primary care physicians and UAS.
The individual defendants, all board-certified allergists, also tried to restrict patient self-administration of allergy shots, allowing allergists to charge for office visits, co-pays and shots as often as three times per week, according to the suit.
“Allergy care is critical for millions of Americans. Too often patients are suffering from allergy symptoms because they do not have access to adequate care,” said Jeff Bullard, president of the AAAPC and a UAS physician partner. “Lack of care can lead to asthma attacks and emergency room visits creating a preventable burden on the healthcare environment. Allergists and family physicians need to work together to ensure appropriate care for all allergy sufferers.”
Bullard noted that as a board-certified family care physician, allergy services are within the scope of his practice and “a valued service for my patients.”
Peggy Binzer, executive director of the AAAPC, said that with 50 million allergy patients and only 5,000 practicing allergists, the lack of care has become an “epidemic.”
“Given this situation, it is unfortunate that the national allergist organizations are hindering care and fighting efforts to increase access to care for the millions of underserved patients. Patients deserve much better,” Binzer said in a statement Tuesday.
“It is our hope that allergists will soon realize the value of collaborating with primary care physicians to deliver timely, personalized care to all allergy sufferers — seasonal and perennial allergy patients that can be treated by family physicians and serious allergy sufferers that require specialty care from allergists,” Binzer added.
The AAAPC, launched in February, is a national nonprofit organization representing the interests of primary care physicians whose practice includes allergy testing and allergen immunotherapy.
UAS is health care services company assisting family physicians, pediatricians and health systems to deliver allergy testing and customized immunotherapy services. By collaborating with physicians to safely administer allergy testing and shots, the company says it has assisted the expansion of access to effective allergy care for thousands of patients that suffer from seasonal and perennial allergies.
Representatives for the defendants were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday. The plaintiffs are represented by Ronald Casey Low and Richard C. Danysh of Bracewell & Giuliani LLP.
Counsel information for the defendants was not immediately available. The case is United Allergy Services et al. v. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, case number 5:14-cv-00035, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Case Title: United Biologics, LLC d/b/a United Allergy Services and Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. AAAPC et al
Case Number: 5:14-cv-00035 .
Court: Texas Western
Nature of Suit: 410(Anti-Trust)
Date Filed: January 13, 2014
By David McAfee
January 14, 2014