Efforts to expose health insurers and malpractice insurers to the brunt of antitrust laws are the result of misperceptions about the current antitrust exemption, America’s Health Insurance Plans says.

AHIP, Washington, has written to the leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees to oppose S. 1681 and H.R. 3596, bills that seek to roll back the antitrust exemption provisions of the McCarran-Ferguson Act for health and medical malpractice insurers.

AHIP President Karen Ignagni sent the letter as the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the topic.

Ignagni writes that McCarran-Ferguson “does not preclude regulation of insurers, but, instead recognizes that the states play a central role in conducting oversight of health and other insurers.”

In reality, “health insurance is one of the most significantly regulated areas of the economy,” Ignagni writes.

The Congressional Research Service recently said that the “scope of the term ‘business of insurance’ has been narrowly construed by the Supreme Court to include only those activities involving the underwriting and spreading of insurance risk and insurance companies’ relationships with their policyholders,’” Ignagni writes.

The CRS has concluded that the federal antitrust laws probably still apply to all other activities of insurance companies, including their attempts to merge and some of their negotiated agreements, because the McCarran-Ferguson exemption is for the ‘business of insurance’, not the business of insurers,” Ignagni writes.

Given this narrow scope, “it is inaccurate to describe the exemption as permitting anticompetitive conduct or mergers,” Ignagni writes.

More generally, Ignagni writes, “AHIP and our members stand on the side both of competition and of meaningful reform.”