House To Vote On Ending Insurer Antitrust Exemption Today, White House Backs Measure
The Obama administration is supporting a House bill that would end the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers.
Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal: "The bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday, would remove insurers' long-time exemption to competition laws, which Democrats hope will lower premiums in insurance markets by giving consumers more choices." The White House Office of Management and Budget said "this bill will benefit the American health-care consumer by ensuring that competition has a prominent role in reforming health insurance markets throughout the nation."
America's Health Insurance Plans, the leading industry trade group, "said in a statement Tuesday that the health insurance industry is already highly regulated ... it cited 'legal uncertainty' that would be created by the new law, which it said would chill developments in the industry. It's uncertain how Republicans will come down on the bill" (Yoest, 2/23).
Kaiser Health News has an updated primer on the antitrust exemption for insurers (Gold, 2/23)
CNN: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "Repealing this exemption is an important part of that effort. Today, there are no rules outlawing bid rigging, price fixing and other insurance company practices that will drive up health care costs and often drive up their own profits as well." CNN noted that "Gibbs said the president is not seeking repeal of the exemption in lieu of broader changes to the insurance market. 'This is a complementary step along the way,' he said" (2/23).
The Christian Science Monitor: "The House bill, introduced by Rep. Betsy Markey (D) of Colorado and Rep. Tom Perriello (D) of Virginia both of whom face tough reelection battles has 64 additional cosponsors, all Democrats. It is slated to reach the House floor on Wednesday. The Senate is less likely to take action anytime soon. Some analysts argue that while lifting the exemption may sound good, it would actually have little effect on how the health insurance industry works" (Feldmann, 2/23).