Leahy Urges Reid to Schedule Insurance Antitrust Vote
By Aruna Viswanatha | March 4, 2010 10:40 am

On the heels of a House vote last week, Senate Democrats sent a letter Wednesday to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urging him to schedule a vote on a Senate bill that would subject health insurers to more federal antitrust scrutiny.

The House passed a bill last Wednesday, 406-19, that would partially repeal a 1945 law that exempts insurance companies from some federal antitrust regulation.

House leaders took up the narrower bill to target the antitrust exemption after a broader health care overhaul stalled.

The letter to Reid was signed Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over antitrust issues along with 20 Democrats and one Independent.

“This is an important step toward bringing competition to the health insurance market, and would ensure that anticompetitive abuses such as price fixing and monopolization are policed in the health insurance industry,” the letter reads.

“This reform is long overdue, and we are pleased that the House voted in such an overwhelming manner to bring antitrust scrutiny to the health insurance industry.”

Leahy has led efforts in the Senate to repeal the exemption.

Despite Democrats championing the issue, the repeal would have little affect on health insurance companies,  according to The New York Times. In an article Wednesday, Paul Ginsburg, the president of the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change, told The Times:

The effect would be almost trivial. Insurance companies have long been subject to most federal antitrust laws. They can’t merge without the approval of the Department of Justice, for example. The only thing that might occur is that some of the data that they share — malpractice insurers share data on claims trends, for example — might not be permitted.

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One Comment

  1. JourneyHome says:

    McCarran-Ferguson was originally designed to empower both the federal government and the individual states so that they could act to prevent insurance companies from becoming abusive monopolies.

    How ironic that it has instead enabled the health insurance industry to achieve exactly the opposite result because the federal government has chosen not to pass legislation targeting insurance monopolies and the states have, for the most part, shirked their regulatory responsibilities.

    States haven’t gone after obvious Health Care Monopolies because their State budgets are stretched too thin to be able to challenge the deep pockets of the trans-national corporations.

    All 50 States need to bring legal action collectively and the Federal Government needs to join the suit.

    Allegations of price-fixing, bid-rigging, exclusive sales contracts, local price cutting to freeze out competitors, and the dividing up of markets need to be full explored so we can get rid of our dysfunctional corporate health care system that’s choking the economy to death.

    On a macroeconomic scale it would return money to “our” pocketbooks and be more profitable for America. Less money out of our paychecks going to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelsons friends at Well Point would be a boom for the economy. It would enable an increase in savings and investing as well as spending.

    Our money is being horded by the few to the detriment of the overall market place. That money needs to be returned to the tax payers in mass and available to stimulate the economy across a broad sector of markets as a whole versus the gain of a few Senators from Aetna named Lieberman and Nelson and the hysterically wealthy and tone deaf CEO’s they greedily represent.

    It’s time to sue the Insurance companies regardless of the Healthcare Bill that Passes.

    Paul Burke
    Author-Journey Home