Lawmaker wants to end noncompete contracts for doctors

Published 8:04 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2020

ST. PAUL — A state legislator is working to ban noncompete agreements for physicians in Minnesota.

Democratic State Rep. Alice Mann, who is also a doctor, plans to reintroduce a bill during the legislative session that started on Tuesday, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. It is not clear how much support she will get from other lawmakers.

During the last session, similar legislation advanced through committees but ultimately never made it to a final vote.

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Noncompete agreements are permitted in nearly every industry in Minnesota, except for lawyers.

The use of noncompete clauses is growing in the U.S., according to experts. But a number of states, including California, Massachusetts and North Dakota, limit them either completely or in certain situations.

Critics say contracts harm patients and exacerbate the health care provider deficit.

However, health companies contend that they need noncompete agreements to safeguard their investments in staff and equipment.

Jon Pryor, a doctor who supervises health system Essentia’s operations in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, said outlays can be lost when a staffer leaves.

“Recruitment fees to bring somebody here, the salary, you hire support staff, you hire equipment for somebody,” he said. “That’s a large investment that ultimately one way or another, directly or indirectly, ends up in a patient’s bill.”

The Minnesota Hospital Association and others in the field also believe that contracts are needed to keep healthcare costs down.

“With a physician shortage, hospitals and communities could experience constant bidding wars to attract and retain physicians,” the hospital association said in a statement. “Eliminating noncompete agreements could lead to even greater challenges for rural communities already struggling with physician recruitment.”