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Panel Rejects Antitrust Bill Amendment

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House leaders expect to bring H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act bill, up for debate on the House floor today.

Members of the House Rules Committee agreed Tuesday to send the HIIFCA bill, which was introduced by Reps. Thomas Perriello, D-Va. and Betsy Markey, D-Colo., to the floor with a rule providing for 2 hours of debate. Lawmakers can consider one motion to send the bill back to committee.

The bill would repeal McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption for the business of health insurance — and only the business of health insurance. Earlier versions of H.R. 4626 and similar antitrust bills had included medical malpractice insurance.

Rules Committee members approved the rules for consideration of H.R. 4626 by a voice vote. They voted 3-7, in a recorded vote, to reject an amendment proposed by Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif. The Dreier amendment would have let a Republican lawmaker propose an amendment to “allow the sharing of historical loss data and actuarial services among health insurance companies.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, says implementing the bill would do more harm than good.

Health insurance is already one of the most regulated industries in America at both the federal and the state levels, AHIP President Karen Ignagni says in a statement.

McCarran-Ferguson “is extremely limited in scope and has nothing to do with competition within the health insurance industry,” she says.

Many insurer activities, including mergers, are and always have been subject to federal antitrust laws, Ignagni says.

Medical malpractice insurers have been more visible than health insurers in efforts to lobby against antitrust exemption repeal bills in recent months, in part because medical malpractice insurers tend to be smaller than health insurers and depend more heavily on efforts to pool claims experience data.

But antitrust exemption repeal for health insurers could backfire, by disrupting administration simplification projects, efforts to offer patients health care quality data, and other initiatives, Ignagni says.