House Committee Votes To Remove Antitrust Protection From Insurance Companies, Senate May Follow
Bloomberg: "The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted to repeal the insurance industry's federal antitrust exemption in a move aimed at spurring competition and controlling the cost of premiums. The panel, in a 20-9 vote, approved legislation to ban companies from engaging in price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation. The measure may be combined with a proposed overhaul of the health-care system the House is considering. ... Last week, Justice Department antitrust chief Christine Varney testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that ending the exemption would create more competition. Insurance companies 'are highly concentrated in many geographic regions,' meaning there 'is very little incentive to compete on price,' she said. America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group, said the impact of the antitrust exemption is exaggerated and insurers are subject to state regulation" (Stern, 10/21).
The New York Times: "The Senate Judiciary Committee legislation would go even further than the House bill and would strip the health insurance industry of the limited exemption from federal antitrust laws that it has enjoyed since 1945. The Senate bill would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which essentially gave states the right to regulate the insurance industry without interference by the federal government" (Herszenhorn, 10/21).
The Associated Press: "Top Senate Democrats intend to try to strip the health insurance industry of its exemption from federal antitrust laws. ... It's the latest evidence of a deepening struggle over President Barack Obama's effort to overhaul the health care industry. If enacted, the switch would mean greater federal regulation for an industry that recently has stepped up its criticism of portions of a health care bill moving toward the Senate floor" (Espo, 10/21).