WASHINGTON–There will be no language in Senate health care legislation repealing the antitrust exemption currently enjoyed by health and medical malpractice insurers, an aide to the proposal’s chief Senate sponsor confirmed today.

In reaction, a spokesman for the American Insurance Association said the group was glad the amendment was gone from the bill but warned, “The battle’s not over.”

“We expect this issue will heat up again next year, and it’s going to take the entire industry being united to oppose this in the final bill,” added the spokesman, Blain Rethmeier.

The fact that there would be no further effort to put the provision in the Senate bill was confirmed by an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chief sponsor of S. 1681, the legislation that would have repealed the antitrust exemption for health-related insurers.

“The debate on amendments to the health care reform legislation appears to be over,” the spokesman said.

According to aides, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate majority leader, will likely file 3 cloture motions on the bill Saturday.

Under Senate rules, that would set up a decisive cloture vote, now planned for 1 a.m. Monday. Final passage could come Christmas Eve, or even on Christmas Day, according to a tentative timeline prepared by the office of Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

But Democrats hope that if they do get 60 votes for cloture Monday, proving they have the votes for passage, Republicans will agree to yield back time and allow a final passage vote on Wednesday, according to staffers.

“The provision is in the House bill, and Sen. Leahy will continue to work for inclusion of the legislation in both the pending Senate bill and in final healthcare reform legislation,” a spokesman for Leahy said.

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The provision, containing language in S. 1681, passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, had 16 cosponsors in the Senate.

According to industry officials and congressional staffers, the decision not to offer the amendment was made as Democrats made an effort to get a vote for final passage by Christmas Eve.

It was also seen as part of the continuing effort to get the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a former insurance commissioner and the key to getting 60 votes for final passage.

Nelson has said language that would allow insurance policies bought with federal subsidies could cover abortions, even if private premiums are separated.

But he also prevailed on Reid not to include the language in S. 1681 in the committee print of the healthcare reform legislation Reid introduced in November.