WASHINGTON BUREAU — Drafters left health insurer antitrust repeal out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill, but a repeal amendment probably will surface when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

The amendment would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson antitrust exemption for health insurers and medical malpractice insurers, an industry official says.

The official believes the amendment will be based on the language in S. 1681, a bill with 16 cosponsors that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

For now, the PPACA bill does not include a provision that would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to study all lines of insurance, according to Tom Currey, president of the National Association of Insurance Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va.

Members of the Physician Insurers Association of America, Rockville, Md., are heartened to see that the PPACA bill does not include provisions to set aside McCarran-Ferguson protections for medical liability insurers, says PIAA President Larry Smarr.

Someone may offer the text of S. 1681 as an amendment to the bill, but that is preferable to having the language in the actual text, because a provision proposed as an amendment will be subjected to much more scrutiny than if it were buried in the bill text, Smarr says.

“Our goal now is to continue to educate senators about how repealing McCarran will be anti-competitive and could actually harm consumers rather than help them,” Smarr says.

“The attempt to set aside McCarran-Ferguson protections continues to be a ruse for distracting attention from much needed tort reform, which is not addressed in a meaningful way by the Senate bill,” Smarr says. “This is ironic in the face of a new AP poll which shows that 54% of Americans want Congress to deal with medical liability lawsuits driving up the cost of medical care, while only 32% are opposed.”
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For more information about the Senate health bill, see Reid Lugs Out Senate Health Bill.