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House to vote on antitrust and association plan bills

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Members of the U.S. House are getting closer to a final vote on H.R. 372, a health insurance antitrust bill, and H.R. 1101, a bill that would let multi-state association health plans sell coverage across state lines.

Members agreed 234-182 to hold a final vote on the antitrust bill. One Democrat, Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., crossed party lines to support holding a vote on the bill; all other Democrats opposed letting the bill come up on the floor.

The resolution for bringing the association health plan bill up on the floor passed 233-186, on a straight party-line vote.

The House plans to bring both bills up for a vote Wednesday.

Related: AHIP: Save the antitrust exemption

Health insurers have been fighting efforts to limit their antitrust protection for years.

Congress gave the “business of insurance” protection from federal antitrust McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, based on the idea that the business of insurance should be subject to state oversight, not federal oversight.

Washington-based America’s Health Insurance Plans has argued in the past that the McCarran-Ferguson antitrust exemption has no effect on mergers and acquisitions, and that it exists mainly to give insurers the ability to make insurance markets work better, by pooling experience data and developing standardized forms.

Related: ACORD to review LTC standards

H.R. 372 includes “safe harbors,” or exemptions from the proposed antitrust exemption, for four types of activities, including collecting historical loss data; determining a “loss development factor applicable to historical loss data”; performing actuarial services, “if such contract… does not involve a restraint of trade”; and developing a standard insurance policy form and form terminology, if the standard does not “require adherence to such standard form.”

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., led the debate against consideration of H.R. 372.

Polis said he agrees with the goal of the bill, but he said “it distracts us from the elephant in the room.”

Republicans are introducing H.R. 372 to draw attention away from American Health Care Act bill provisions that would provide tax cuts for billionaires while increasing the number of uninsured people by 24 million, Polis said.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., offered an amendment that could require insurers using the safe harbors to limit the rates they charge adults over age 55 to three times the amount they charge their youngest adult insureds, or the “age band” rating limit included in the Affordable Care Act.

The AHCA bill would increase the maximum age band ratio to 5-to-1.

Republicans defeated the amendment by a voice, but Rosen asked for a recorded vote. At press time, the House had not yet held a recorded vote.

Democrats spoke out strongly against intent of H.R. 1101, the association health plan bill, arguing that it would hurt the role of state insurance regulators and encourage the association health plans to operate under the rules of the states with the weakest rules.

The House Rules Committee brushed aside most proposed H.R. 1101 amendments during a meeting Monday, but they agreed to let one proposed amendment, to let existing association health plans continue to operate under existing state and federal laws, come up for debate on the floor.

Correction: The partly affiliation was described incorrectly in the original version of this article. He’s a Democrat.


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