Health Care Reform

Legislation Introduced to End Antitrust Exemption for Health Insurers

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 17, 2009.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Energy and Commerce Committee Vice-Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) today introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, legislation to end the broad antitrust exemption enjoyed by health insurance companies.

Both the House and Senate today have introduced identical language to reduce insurance prices for consumers. This legislation would extend antitrust enforcement over health insurers and medical malpractice insurance issuers, which currently enjoy broad antitrust immunity under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. This immunity can serve as a shield for activities that might otherwise violate federal law.

“This legislation would specifically prohibit price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation in the health insurance industry,” said Conyers. “These pernicious practices are detrimental to competition and result in higher prices for consumers. Conduct that is unlawful throughout the country should not be allowed for insurance companies under antitrust exemption. The House Judiciary Committee held extensive hearings on the effects of the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. It became clear then that policyholders and the economy in general would benefit from eliminating this exemption.

“The legislation we introduced today is intended to root out unlawful activity in an industry grown complacent by decades of protection from antitrust oversight. In doing so, we aim to make health insurance more affordable to more Americans. I want to thank my friend Senator Leahy for his leadership on the bill and for working with the House on this joint introduction.”

“The average American family already pays an extra $1,100 in premiums every year for a broken system that supports 46 million uninsured Americans,” said Johnson. “The Enforcement Act is long overdue. I am concerned that the shield this industry enjoys have resulted in market consolidation and higher premiums for the people of my district. As millions of Americans continue to go uninsured, we cannot continue to support the insurance companies by providing them with legal cover for anticompetitive actions.”

“As health insurance premiums continue to go through the roof, now is the time to ensure that health insurance companies are not engaging in anti-competitive behavior that make it more difficult for Americans to get health coverage,” said DeGette. “Families across our nation are feeling the pinch in their budgets from having to keep up with rising insurance rates. This bill takes an important step towards making sure our health insurance industry is competitive and is providing consumers with affordable health insurance. Simply put, the bottom lines of the big insurance companies should not be put above the American public’s ability to gain access to health care.”