Medical malpractice insurers are lobbying the Senate not to lump them in with health insurance companies as Congress moves to bring the industry under federal antitrust regulation.
The malpractice insurers are opposed to a proposal by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that they say would restrict companies’ ability to gather and share data.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that strips health insurers of the immunity from federal antitrust prosecution they have enjoyed since 1945, but which provides protections for data sharing. But in the Senate, Democratic leaders held a news conference Wednesday, in which they supported a similar amendment, but one that lacks the data sharing protections.
Lobbyists for medical malpractice insurers say they are focused on defeating or reshaping the proposed Senate amendment. “We’re pushing that they just take out medical liability insurance completely,” Michael Stinson, director of government relations at the trade group Physician Insurers Association of America, said in an interview with Main Justice.
The industry group collects and analyzes data from its member companies about average defense costs, types of claims, and patient safety information. It then sends back aggregated data to its members in the form of national averages.
Such information sharing, Stinson says, might be in jeopardy if the Senate amendment goes through. “We have no guarantee that regulators won’t decide that patient safety information is used to to set rates, and [therefore] fall under a broad definition of price fixing,” he said.
Meanwhile, some experts have suggested the consumer benefits of subjecting health insurers to federal antitrust laws might be overblown.