WASHINGTON BUREAU — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy are backing bills that could eliminate health insurers’ and medical malpractice insurers’ access to the McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption.
Reid, D-Nev., and Leahy, D-Vt., talked about the antitrust exemption today at a Judiciary Committee hearing on S. 1681, the Senate’s Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act bill.
Leahy, who introduced S. 1681, is co-sponsoring the bill with Reid and 6 other Democratic senators.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced the House version of the bill, H.R. 3596, in the House.
“There is no reason why the insurance companies should have exemption from antitrust laws,” Reid said about the antitrust exemption in a statement issued as the Judiciary Committee hearing began. “To the extent insurance companies need to share information to provide their services, let them do what other industries have to do – seek prior authorization and guidelines from the Department of Justice for how they can work together.”
Health insurers “should be subject to the same federal oversight as every other industry,” Reid said. “Their price-setting and information sharing practices should not be permitted to take place out of public view, but should be brought out into the light of day.”
Leahy noted that, in the prior Congress, he joined with Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., “in introducing a much broader repeal of the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption.”