House Passes Bill To Repeal Antitrust Exemption For Health Insurers

The House passed legislation Wednesday (406-19) to strip health insurers of their federal antitrust exemption.

The Washington Post: The Democratic bill "could resonate with public concerns about insurers but that has an uncertain future in the Senate. ... President Obama has said he favors the idea of repealing the exemption, and House Democrats say doing so would add scrutiny to the practices of health insurers. ... The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, said last year that because states already investigate health insurance companies, repealing the exemption would not significantly reduce premiums. Under a 1945 law, health insurance companies are regulated by state governments to prevent collusion, price-fixing and other anti-competitive behavior. The Senate has not said when or if it will take up the legislation" (Bacon Jr., 2/24).

The Denver Post: "If not exactly a new era, passage of a health reform bill with bipartisan support marked a small victory for Democrats in their effort to find common ground with Republicans heading into today's health care summit hosted by President Barack Obama. … In making their case for the bill, lawmakers have pointed out the near monopolies enjoyed by health insurance companies in many states. In 39 states, two health insurers control at least half the market, according to evidence presented in recent congressional hearings. In nine states, one insurer controls 75 percent of the market" (Riley, 2/25).

Reuters: "Supporters portrayed the bill as a way to tamp down sharply rising health insurance costs, such as those from WellPoint Inc (WLP.N), which raised rates an average of 25 percent for some Anthem Blue Cross customers in California. WellPoint Chief Executive Angela Braly, at a hearing on the issue on Wednesday, said the company was concerned that it would lose the ability to share data with other companies. 'It's not going to affect healthcare costs one way or another,' she said" (Bartz, 2/24).

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