WASHINGTON BUREAU — A measure that would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption for health and medical malpractice insurers will be offered as an amendment to H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced the development today, but it was not clear at press time when a vote on the amendment might be held.

Leahy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced an antitrust exemption repeal bill, S. 1681, in September. S. 1681 has 17 co-sponsors. The co-sponsor list includes 16 Democrats and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Independent-Conn.

“This amendment will prohibit the most egregious anticompetitive conduct – price fixing, bid rigging and market allocations – conduct that harms consumers, raises health care costs, and for which there is no justification,” Leahy says.

“Subjecting health and medical malpractice insurance providers to the antitrust laws will enable customers to feel confident that the price they are being quoted is the product of a fair marketplace,” Leahy says.

The proposed Senate amendment appears to provide for a simple repeal of the antitrust exemption.

The major House health bill, H.R. 3962, contains antitrust exemption repeal provisions that appeared to be more extensive. The H.R. 3962 provision includes language that gives the Federal Trade Commission enforcement authority over “unfair methods of competition,” according to officials of the American Insurance Association, Washington.

The House bill apparently would give the FTC oversight over property and casualty and life insurance products.

Senate floor debate on the PPACA bill started Monday.

Reid, who introduced the bill, said Monday that he will do everything he can to ensure that the Senate passes the bill by Christmas.

Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau followed up by saying that Senate Democrats are “100% committed to getting this done by Christmas, no ifs, ands or buts.”