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Proposals for the reform of the nation's health care system have highlighted the issue of rising health care costs. Concern about rising costs, in tum, has led to talk of imposing price controls on health care providers. Economists and other experts have condemned price controls as a way to control rising health care costs. They argue that price controls do nothing to alleviate the underlying causes of inflation; instead, price controls merely postpone or redirect price increases, and in the process introduce allocational distortions and inefficiencies. This Article will not elaborate on the policy arguments for or against medical price controls. That task is left to others. Instead, this Article is concerned exclusively with a legal question: what, if any, constitutional limitations apply to the federal government's power to constrain the prices charged by health care providers? The specific focus is on physician price controls, but much of the analysis applies to other health care providers as well.

No claim can be made that physician price controls are per se unconstitutional under current doctrine. For better or worse, it is "settled beyond dispute" that regulation of prices is constitutionally permissible. This does not mean, however, that the Constitution has nothing to say about what form a system of physician price controls could take. This Article argues that the Fifth Amendment's Takings and Due Process Clauses would apply to any general system of price controls imposed by the federal government on physician services, and would establish significant limits on how those controls are formulated and carried out.


Constitutional Law | Law