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.