WASHINGTON–The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has introduced legislation that would repeal the antitrust waiver provided under the McCarran-Ferguson Act for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies.

The bill is an apparent attempt to pressure the health insurance industry as well as Republicans in Congress to support health care reform legislation now being pushed in Congress by Democrats and the Obama administration.

“A few industries have used their influence to obtain a special, statutory exemption from the antitrust laws, and the insurance industry is one of them,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in introducing the legislation. “In the markets for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance, patients and doctors are paying the price, as costs continue to increase at an alarming rate. Insurers should not object to being subject to the same antitrust laws as everyone else.”

Leahy said provisions of the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act he introduced would repeal the federal antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies for what he called “flagrant antitrust violations,” including price-fixing, bid-rigging and market allocations.

As a result of his bill, health insurers and medical malpractice insurers would be subject to the same laws regulating competition that apply to almost every other company doing business in the U.S., Sen. Leahy argued.