WASHINGTON BUREAU – Members of the House have voted 406-19 to pass H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act bill.
The bill would repeal the antitrust exemption afforded the business of health insurance – but not the business of medical malpractice insurance – by the McCarran-Ferguson Act.
Some observers say they are skeptical about whether antitrust repeal has enough support in the Senate for a antitrust exemption repeal bill to pass there.
H.R. 4626 was introduced by Reps. Thomas Perriello, D-Va. and Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo.
The House took up the bill in an effort to salvage components of its major health system change bill, and the bill had the support of the Obama administration.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Rules Committee, managed the bill on the House floor on behalf of House Democratic leaders.
“We’ve heard too many complaints about the health insurance industry engaging in price fixing, bid rigging, and other anti-consumer and anti-competitive practices,” Slaughter said. “This industry has enjoyed a big giveaway for far too long, and it’s about time that it plays by the same rules as everyone else.”
America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, says the bill “is likely to do more harm than good,” by hampering data-sharing efforts that could help patients.
But the major health insurers are large companies that can draw on huge pools of claims data of their own, and insurance company executives have said they believe antitrust repeal would have little practical effect on their operations.